Disclaimer: I don't own any POTC characters, only my OCs.
First of all, let me begin by saying:
To each his own.
I'm not going to argue. I'm not going to fight. You have your opinion and you are entitled to have it. I respect that. No more childish chatter from either of us, please.
Anyhow, here it is.
This is it.
It was dusk.
Before me, beyond the steep black edge of the mountaintop, surrounding me, doming me, the sky was a dark, churning orange, stretching from end to end, from the beginning to infinity. It was flawless, perfect, a beautiful dark world curving atop me, sheltering me, watching over me; in the gloom of the dying day, it was ablaze, aflame, burning high above me like chariots of fire racing across the world, tearing flames of bright gold. Everything it touched, everything it saw felt its eternal blaze, it's soft, gentle flames, the great skies ablaze with the songs of the dying day. Clouds, thin, wispy clouds shredded through the doming inferno, the rich, thick flames, shadows of dark whipping through the amber, like leaves in the wind, lost forever. They barely stood out, stood no ground against the soft gentle flames of the evening sky, frothing waves against the bonfire of the dusk.
Wispy shadows whispered through the flames.
It was a beautiful dusk.
Down below, beyond the cracking edge of the summit, beyond the rut of my boots, the ocean spread out, far and wide, mirroring the sky, competing with it as it matched it all the way, tangoing with the burning soft flames of the evening skies. No land, no blip; just endless water, a dark, dark orange against the burning inferno of the beautiful dusk, bleak and quiet, hushed in the gloom. Waves rolled over the gentle dark plains, delicate, soft waves, the white froth a dancing ember as the wind rushed across the cold, quiet waters, crashing down below, far, far away. Thunder echoed like a lovely dream as water clawed at the beach down below, in the shady distance, rumbling softly, moaning quietly, groaning a lament of broken bones and lost loves. Spray kicked in gleaming gold, like diamond dust in the air, the dark of the dying day hushing across the sleepy ocean, singing a sweet lullaby.
Seagulls darted, glowing gold in the light of the fading star.
It was my last dusk.
At the end of the world, at the end of all things, in the soft burning embers of the skies and dark orange of the sleepy waves, the sun sank slowly into the dark waters, melting away into the abyss. Already half of its beautiful face was gone, eaten up by the sea, devoured by the night; it was nothing more than a perfect circle of brilliant gold, like a giant coin drifting into the waves, gleaming and glowing, yawning tiredly as it fell away into its slumber. Tendrils of cloud, of wispy dark shadows cushioned its fall, its descent from the soft burning embers of the heavens to the cold, clutches of the sea, shying along its perfect, curved edges, kissing its golden face. It's light, it's faded, dying light caressed against the soft dark waves that consumed it, lighting a path, lighting a trail, beautiful gold kissing against the frolicking, laughing waves, like a gleaming stairway up to the skies. Golden seagulls sailed towards the sinking, brilliant ship.
It was like a lidless, golden eye falling away to the depths of night.
In the end of the day, in the last few breaths of the dying light, everything was fading, darkening, the sea growing deeper, the flaming sky growing older, the golden sun sinking into the bleak waters as the world slowly faded away into night; the wind was still so fresh, though, still so sweet, ringing cold and true against my skin, chilling to the bone. Blonde curls laughed in the tendrils of the sweet breeze, trailing into the burning skies, flying back, loose, free, whipping away into the wind, giggling with maddening glee. Above, the branches of The Enfal Tree loomed silent, unmoved while the wind rang true and clear, chuckling among my curls, kissing against my skin, sweet with the scent of the dark sea. The medicine man's eye laughed along, fumbling against my chilled cheek, beads rattling like a wind-chime caught away, lost in the breeze, torn sleeves fluttering by, hands cold and numb. At this height, at the very top of the black mountain, at the summit of the world, the wind was cold as ice, crashing against my body like a million shards, pushing me back, trying to lift me off the ground, the air thin and moist with the frail burning of the dusk-
And yet, despite the cold, despite the icy wind, the world was warm, falling into sleep, the light leaving the skies for the soft blankets of a dark night. Gulls screeched up, mere whispers at this height, gliding above the tossing golden waves, wings licking the amber sprays, their gleaming bodies kissing the waters and flying to the sunset, vanishing into the horizon, into another world. Waves crashed soft thunders, remnants of distant places, moaning and groaning far below as they flicked gleaming flecks of gold into the sweet wind, gnawing against the broken shores, against the feet of giants. Wind chilled sweet and true, ringing through my bones, through my every vein, rushing, coursing along with my blood as I stared out into the distant sun and its setting glory…
That was all I could.
I could only sigh.
My last dusk.
It was so quiet up here, so very quiet, far away from the world, standing high above, touching the burning skies, lost in the icy, whirling wind as I stared into the setting burning disk, watching as the day finally ended, as the light faded away; there was nothing, nothing more the soft hush of the crashing waves, the screeching whispers of the travelling gulls and the howl, the deafening, icy howl of the cold wind, cupping over my ears, tearing through my body. Torn, bloodied sleeves flapped along like a pair of flags caught in a gale, trashing against my body, kicking against my hips, the black dust of the mountaintop swirling over the rocky roots and about my black boots. The medicine man's eye rattled in the glowing embers of the fading day.
Waves gleamed gold in the dark, endless plain.
The wind laughed.
My very last.
It was no longer raining ash, no frail, black ash falling from the sky, burning hot, burning dull, like the tears of the dead falling down onto earth; the rain had now long stopped but the ashes still clutched to the rock, shying over dusty grains, black and flaky, swirling about my ankles. Dark soot clung to the tops of the rocky black branches, like black snow, caking the smooth rock and dusting the land, crisping the summit like sprinkles on a cherry cake. The wind howled fierce and true, relentless and cold, but the smell of sulphur still spiced the air, very faint now, a thin, underlying foul beneath the fresh sweet of the raging sea wind; they no longer choked my throat, burned my eyes, strangled my lungs, a persistent but faded scent, long whipped away in the caress of the wind. Skies burned like remnants of the falling ashes, as if it was the torching heavens that had wept away these black dead embers.
Sulphur whispered like the sweet scent of death.
The world faded.
"My very last."
The sun smiled in answer.
My very last sunset.
With a soft exhale of breath, I folded my arms, fingers grabbing at elbows as I hugged myself, shielding myself from the icy onslaught, yellow sleeves tearing red as the sun kissed warm against my healed arms, like a forgotten lover's kiss stinging against the skin. Shadows leaped about, dancing with the last light, the burning embers of the fading day singing a quiet song as I held myself back, clutching at the warmth of my own body, of the sun's frail kisses. Locks flew astray, amber in the day, dancing against my naked shoulders in sweet reminder as I hugged my arms and stared out into the golden sun and the birds that sailed towards its fiery embrace-
And wouldn't that be weird, than?
To sail to the sun?
To fly to the sun?
In the middle of those dark waters, sitting smack in the soft, orange waves, rocking blimps in the rolling, bleak waters were two ships, mere dots at this horrible height, white sails burning gold in the light of the dying day; I could barely seem them, not in gloom, not at this distance, but they were there, in the middle of the ocean, tiny, golden waves crashing against the dark wood, fiery sails tearing through the burning wind. There were so small, so far away that they looked like miniature toy ships, mere models rocking about in the endless maw of the great ocean, so alone, so insignificant in the endless plains of the dark waters and gigantic crown of the black mountains. They were trivial, slight, unimportant really in the great scheme of things, mere dust in the eyes of the universe-
But they were there.
They were alive.
Tiny little lights had become to rock along with the dark ships, tiny little bobs of golden light, the invisible, indiscernible crewmen lighting up the routine candles for the approaching night, a dozen of so fairies bobbing their frail light in the dark plains of the rolling oceans. White sails soared brilliant, glowing gold in the sunset, like fire streaking through the skies, tearing through the burning world; it had to be the Flying Dutchman, of course, looming high and above its companion but still nothing more than a far-away blimp in the universe of the seas. Beside it, the dark, black sails of the smaller ship, of The Black Pearl, hid it into the gloom of the bleak seas, blending it into the dark waves, a darker shadow, a smaller shadow against its fiery, bigger companion, looming silently in its shade, little dots of light flaring to life like fireflies shaking awake for the night. Waves rocked, crashing mutely, grinding silently, sails tearing through the skies as the ships bobbed on the waters, silent and still, alive-
They were alive.
Off to the right, a little away from the dark, hidden Black Pearl, a thin trail of black smoke whispered up into the air, right out of the bleak waves, dancing languidly and surrendering to the wind, a frail imperfection in the fading world; it was coming right out of the waters, out of a dark, black shadow in the gentle, orange waves, a bobbing mess of something, misshapen and indiscernible, a tangle of black sinking slowly into the clutching cold waters. At this height, I couldn't see what it was, nothing more than an odd shadow falling into the waves, a shadow that should not be there
It was Betty.
In the soft glow of the fading day, beneath the burning dark skies and before the rolling dark waves and the sinking sun, the memory flashed across my mind, across my eyes, the blood, the bodies, the horrid screams tearing up into the bloody sky as the world exploded in fire, black cloud storming up into the ravaged sky as the blast rocked me off my feet, smoke and fires punching up into the sky, wood raining aflame, debris falling-
Because that had been Betty.
Betty had exploded.
For a moment, the vision, the dream of the explosion, the war raced across my mind, stinging me, reminding me-
And than, I looked out into the shadow again, into the weird, black shape sinking into the waters, wispy smoke trailing up from its ruins. Golden waves crashed silently against the dark shadow, against the ruins of Betty as the burnt ship slowly sank to a cold, watery grave, falling, fading, disappearing forever-
Had Sparrow been aboard?
Were they dead too?
I'll never know.
I'll never know.
In the distance, beyond the two silent ships and the smoking, sinking ruins of Betty, little, tiny blimps of black forged against the falling sun, nothing more than dots against the bright gold, retreating into the sunset; they were so small, so very far and small, no bigger than periods on page, dashes of ink rocking to the edge of the world but they could have only been the remainder of Errol's fleet, retreating back to their world, to the fading day. There were several of them, several little dots marching towards the horizon, unison and uniform, abandoning their fight, their war with the three pirate ships, leaving none behind, the waters clean and smooth and dark behind them. They were too far away to make out, too distant to count, but there were so many of them, so many dots racing away to the sunset, forsaking a quest, a hunt that had taken them months-
And only a few hours to prove futile.
After all, Lord Errol was dead, wasn't he?
I had killed him, hadn't I?
I had killed him.
Nails bit into skin.
My very last.
Out on the horizon, against the marching blimps, the sun slowly sank into the waves, falling away into the abyss, the burning skies growing darker, the sea growing deeper, the wind growing colder and colder as the day died into the dark clutches of the icy night, the world fading all around me as I stood on that mountain top and stared down into the burning sunset, watching as night slowly woke up and day slowly sank away into its soft blankets of sleep…
And I sighed.
That was all I could do.
I could only sigh.
My last dusk.
Balder's voice was a dream.
"You forgot something."
I didn't want to turn away, to look away for even one moment, to gaze away from the beautiful dusk, the beautiful world lest it was all to explode and that precious moment swiped away, gone forever-but I turned anyway, reluctantly, hesitantly, tearing my eyes away from the numinous fires and over my shoulder, neck wincing with a sharp knot. Fiery curls burned past, tearing wildly, the medicine man's eye begging me to turn back, to look upon the very last dusk again but I didn't listen anyway, gazing over my shoulder to the source of the voice-
He was there, beyond the edge of The Enfal Tree, trudging up the steep black slope, dust and warm ashes noiseless beneath his naked feet, black whispering in his wake; the incline was steep but he made it quickly enough, trekking up the smooth face of the summit, practically skipping over the dusty ruins. Wind howled, pushing and pushing, cold and icy and in the soft fading glow of the setting sun, in the gloom of the burning skies and the last frail light of the sinking golden orb, Balder was washed in the amber light, head to toe, fires leaping about his golden skin, drenching him in the tawny light. Shadows danced about him, leaped, pirouetting across his broad shoulders and naked chest like dancers on a stage, wild and free, his skin burning like embers of faded fire, cold in the wind. Up above, rushing back against the icy gale, his fair curls were aflame, trailing brilliant streaks of golden fires, the fading orange light of the dying day tinting his hair a stunning amber; as was with his body, fires leaped about his springing curls, dragging behind into the wind, rushing past his face in a tangle of golden fires, wild and free. Without the mess of his curls, his jaw stuck out, large, strong and proud, the rustic wear of his stubbly chin glooming dark in the quiet dusk. Shadows danced about his face, fires and black competing about the skin, nose seemingly longer, cheekbones seemingly higher, the shadows, the gloom distorting his face, twisting his features-
He was still unbelievably pretty.
With a skip of his bare feet, Balder walked up to me, hiking over the whispering black, feet gentle and light upon the fallen ash, like an elf, barely disturbing the black dust at all, not making a single sound; with his fiery curls flying behind in a horrid mess, his shoulders only stood out more, somewhat bigger, somewhat broader, curved muscles of gold now gleaming with the sun's dying glow. He was still without a shirt, running half-naked up the steep slope, his rolling muscles purring with each, long silent stride, washed aglow with the day's last breaths; his arms swung lose, childish, free, biceps and triceps and all the 'ceps' bright with the glow of the sinking sun, smooth, flawless. His gigantic chest heaved with each breath, normal and ordinary, as if the sloping hike and the pushing wind didn't labour him at all, his orange muscles pushing and pulling with such ease. His black pants still clung, dusty and black, his feet naked and dusty, his chest dancing with the dying glow with each steady, easy step up towards me and The Enfal Tree-
But now, there was something else.
Strapped across his chest, from his right shoulder to his left mid-riff, dark as the approaching night was a band of bark, thick and straight, a perfect rectangular cutting across his orange skin, burning aglow yet still so very dark. It was a strap of some kind, a band running across his chest and obviously, around his back, a sling made of a dark bark, strong and sturdy; even at the distance, even in the gloom, I could see that the strange band was etched with golden markings, faint, thin filigree decorating the belt, gleaming like constellations. It was too dark to make out what exactly it was showing, but there was pattern there, some sort of writing, as well as a logo of some sort, gold twirling and dancing, bright and burning in the dark of the bark. Behind, beyond his rushing hair, beyond the golden fires, something stuck out from his back, against his right shoulder, like twigs or something….
His eyes burned with the flames of the dying day.
"What?" I called down to him, turning by body slightly around and away from the glorious dusk, wincing past the tangle of my hair and icy cold as I glared down at the approaching god, my voice lost away in the howling wind. Yet, somehow, in the midst of his hike, he still heard me, and with a flick of messy, wild, streaming curls, he flashed a smile up to me, that same cheeky, playful smile.
That infuriating smile.
I didn't even try to smile back.
His voice came muffled and distant.
"This!" He yelled over the howl of the wind and with another, gentle, silent skip over a steep edge, Balder raised his hand, knees still working as he hurried to close the distance between us; in his hand, tucked nicely, perfectly was the sword, his sword, glowing bright and beautiful in the orange light. In the glow of the dying day, the sword stuck out like a tongue of flames, the silver blade reflecting the gleam of the sinking sun, fires raging across the brilliant, sharp edge. Against the backdrop of the gloomy, dusty, valley of ashes, the sword screamed like a bolt of lightning, tearing from the earth, so brilliant, so bright against the scene of death, each tremble, each shake sending furious shards of light reflecting off its gleaming surface, a thousand firelights dancing among the ashes. It was still glowing, faintly, but glowing but even the shine of Balder's sword was no match to the overcoming ambers of the setting sun; beneath the brilliant blade, the gold hilt laughed beautiful, elegant and tough, curving in Balder's palm like a perfect fit, matching him completely. The red ruby was nothing more than an eye drop of raw flames.
Its sharp tip gleamed like a star.
My brow crinkled.
"What do you mean?" I shouted again, against the icy wind but there was really no need to be so loud anymore; Balder had already come close enough, his skipping, gentle feet jumping over the last edge and walking steadily, calmly, silently towards The Enfal Tree, his hand still holding out the sword, his lips grinning like a fool. Dust barely kicked at his approach, fiery golden curls laughing away into the howling gale-
And then, with a swish of rolling flaming muscles, Balder grinned and tossed the sword towards me, hilt first, the brilliant blade gleaming blindly through the air. I didn't even have to think; without so much as a thought, I reached out and grabbed the sword completely out of the dark air, pulling it back towards me, fingers wrapping around the burning blade as my eyes fluttered close against the blinding reflections of the setting sun, the hilt sinking into my palm, fitting into place-
And I felt that surge of power all over again.
I licked my lips.
Balder's grin was a brilliant flash.
"Good!" he announced as he skipped over a tangling, rocky root and finally stopped right in front of me, beneath the clawing, gleaming branches of The Enfal Tree, golden curls raging fire as they tore behind him, streaming rivers of golden fires crashing behind, my own curls fighting against the icy wind, "Brilliant! I can you're natural! Yes, yes! A natural! Now, all we have to do is train a little bit more, get more patience and creativity into your step-"
"Wait, why are you giving me this?" his eyes burned, bright and alive, screaming with joy as he beamed down at me, curls crashing against rocky branches, the orange glow of the setting sun dashing him with all sorts of shadows, "It's yours!"
The wind howled.
The sea whispered.
His grin was that of a child's.
"No worries, dame! You keep it!"
My frown only sank deeper.
"Keep it?" I quirked an eyebrow, bringing my volume down again as my voice bounced off him now and not lost into the cold wind, loud and clear above the howling wind, "It's…It's yours-"
"And I don't really need it anymore! It suits you better, actually, looks nicer on you! Was always a little too big for me, took most of the attention away from me…nah…you keep it. I have my own."
With a silly grin and wild eyes, Balder twisted his amber body slightly, giving me a glimpse of his back; there, in the gloom of twilight, pressed against his right shoulder was a long and cylindrical quiver, made of the same dark bark as its belt that strapped it around Balder's chest. It was definitely the same bark, carved elegantly and beautiful, thick and fine, a perfectly carved cylinder about the length of my arm. It stuck to his back, dark and narrow, golden filigrees tracing along the earthenware in the same weird pattern, the same loops and curves and strange little pictures of the strap, gleaming bright in the frail of the setting sun. Golden ink bordered the bark cylinder, curving and whipping along its rough surface, the same words, the same shapes tracing along the entire piece, from the strap to the quiver. Sticking out of the mouth of the quiver, piercing up into the burning skies were several arrows, gold arrows, bright and beautiful, fiery in the dying glow, their feathered tips sticking up in brilliant shades of gold, radiant like the sun. Their shafts slid about, stems of bright gold.
I'll give him that.
I don't remember seeing arrows or quivers in the cave.
My frown didn't leave my face.
His smile never wavered.
I hadn't seen it before but there it was, tucked in Balder's other hand, swinging up to my attention before his maddening, burning glee; it was a bow, a large, beautiful bow, tall and big, its main body the same dark wood as the quiver, sharp and long, carved perfectly. The string was nothing more than a thin iron of some sort, but the bow was all natural wood, the same golden tracings dancing along the dark surface. It was enchanting, really, beautiful, even more so than the quiver, the strange letters, the strange words telling a story in gold along the upper limb and lower limb, conflagrating in brilliant calligraphy up and down at the nocks. There was no grip or handle, just the pretty wood, hard and strong, the golden words glaring with the gleam of the sun, daunting, ancient. The nocks were twisted in a pretty swirl of gold.
His grip was iron on the burnished wood.
I kept on frowning.
I didn't see that either.
His eyes burned with uncontrollable flames.
"Not any bow. My bow. I made it myself, you know."
"You don't say."
"Well, there's always this…"
With a flick of his clever, fiery fingers and a gleam of a flashing smile, Balder reached his other, newly-freed hand down to his hips and from somewhere, a pocket perhaps, pulled out his flute, pretty and quaint among the shadows of his fingers. Golden filigree danced bright, leaping about and with his other hand still grasped tight on the long bow, Balder brought the flute up, right to our faces, grinning and beaming, curls laughing back. His eyes roared with humour.
Shadows crept darker.
The sun sank lower.
The wind battered and bruised.
I raised an eyebrow.
"Seriously? That's all you got? A bow, arrows and a flute?"
His grin seemed to gleam flames in the dying of the day.
"Never underestimate a flute, Joey," he said, quirkily enough and than, with laughing curls, tapped the tip of the flute on my head, barely missing the fighting, swarming curls, grinning like a total idiot, "Never. Ever. Ever. If you are to learn anything from me, that will always be the most important; never, under any circumstances, underestimate a flute."
"Right. What's its going to do? Sing the creepy crawlies to sleep?"
A cheeky wink.
"Something like that."
I opened my lips to speak-
And then, with an aggravated sigh, I twisted away from the mess of my curls and faced the icy wind, staring it in the face, gazing out across the bleak silent waters, the ember skies; the sun had sunk lower and in the cold of the whipping wind, the shadows were growing longer, creeping and slithering, the sea growing darker and darker. More little blimps of light had ignited upon those tiny ships, far away, in that other world, casting a soft, quiet glow on the dark waters around them, waves crashing on wood in muted thunders, shadows of trembling gold, the spray kicking up in the dark air in showers of raining diamond dust, gleaming in the burning skies. Hair tangled about, dark in the dusk and in the loud howling of the wind, the icy onslaught of the gale and the growing, leeching shadows, I simply forgot Balder and felt my frown loosened as I stared out into the wonders of the world, lapping in the falling sun, breathing the sweet scent of the sea for the very last time-
And there, far away, far, far below, near the ragged, pale beaches, far away from those two floating tiny ships and smoking ruins of Betty were little blimps, moving swiftly through the waves, cresting through the golden surf, surging across the dark, bleak waters. There were several of them, moving quite swiftly, thin and narrow as they headed over to the pale stretch of the beach, rushing over the waves, waters surging gold around their fervent race-
But what on earth were they?
Behind me, I heard Balder say something, but I didn't really care at this moment, with a single, firm step, I walked further out onto the summit and using the icy wind as my hold, I leaned forward, gazing down, squinting my eyes as I tried to figure out what exactly those weird, thin objects were-
They were boats.
With a blink of my eyes, it suddenly came to me and in flicker of a second, I realised that I was gazing down at a fleet of boats, making for shore, rushing to the beach, to this very island. It was dark, I was very high up-
But it was boats.
What else can it be?
It had to be the men!
Those darn pirates, coming to shore, to this island…
Was Sparrow among them?
Was that trigger-happy, son a bitch with them as well?
How about Gibbs?
Was he there too?
Was Scarlett coming ashore as well?
My heart gnawed away.
With a soft sigh, I closed my eyes, lashes fluttering softly against cheeks, my lungs exhaling wearily as I shut out the gloom and fell away into darkness, letting the sorrow, the anger, the pure, biting misery tear through my heart, course through my blood, stinging through my bones and setting deep within, a seed growing in the deepest part of my soul, the wind tearing its way through my body, surrendering to the icy gale-
And wishing, wishing for just a moment, that I didn't have to do this.
Wishing that I had never fallen through the portal.
Wishing that I had never followed Sparrow.
Wishing that I had never had gotten my brother and myself caught up in this mess of pirates and gods.
Wishing that I had never fallen in love with William Turner.
Because here I am.
Here I am.
Here I am, standing on the edge of the world, watching the sun set-
And waiting for my death.
Here I am.
About to die.
Balder's voice was a low whisper.
"You sure about this?"
With a another sigh, I tore open my eyes, letting the light back in, staring down onto the shadowy rock as the wind whipped back my hair, my heart choked away, tight, strangled, my body suddenly very, very tired; Balder was beside me now, staring quietly out into the sunset, aglow with burning flames, his straggly, fair hair twisting with mine as he gazed silently out into the dying day, smile faded, glee gone. Arrows trembled behind in his quiver as he clutched tightly to the elegant bow, still against his side, golden filigree dancing bright, catching the last light of the day, spiralling along the bark like golden vine. Bare chest heaved quietly, silently, his entire golden body still in the last glow of the day, not a word, not a breath as he watched the sun slowly sink away into the clutches of night, his beautiful face dancing with the orange glow. Blue eyes burned with the gleam of the setting sun.
His voice tingled the back of my mind.
The sword was so warm in my hand.
Gulls whispered into the burning skies, darting, flying towards the crumbling dusk.
The ships waited on the other side.
Golden curls screamed.
"You can return."
I clenched the hilt.
"And what?" I turned slightly towards him, to his pretty face washed in the glow of the dying day, golden tresses flowing in flames, the sea thundering in whispers, the waves gleaming gold, my fist clenching the hilt of the warm blade, the entire world so very beautiful, "Return to what exactly?"
An eye still kept on the surging boats.
Voice rang, true and clear.
"To your brother. To your friends."
The wind howled.
"It's because of my brother that Will's dead in first place."
"Technically, it was that Scarlett's decision-"
"I'm not about to return without Will."
A little smile crept onto his lips.
Golden curls laughed.
For a moment, I just stared at his calm, quiet face and than, with a soft blink of my eyes, I turned away, back to the sea, to the setting sun, to the sitting, quiet ships and the racing boats, watching as the another world moved on while we stood here, caught up in trials of life and death. Wind whipped, cold and rich, stinging against my skin, competing against the surging, rushing warmth of the sword in my blood-
And than I whispered in the wind, barely hearing myself over the howl of the icy wind, throat caught, lungs tight, murmuring out into the world, whispering the truth of all things.
The skies burned.
Moments of silence passed by as Balder and I said not a word, staring out silently into the setting sun, watching as the sun dipped deeper and deeper into the cold, bleak waters, the ocean growing darker and darker, the lights of the ships like little darting fireflies lighting up the approaching night as their smaller compadres rushed towards the shore, breaking over the golden waves, throwing gleaming spray up into the air. Wind rushed, cold and icy, seagulls soaring away into the golden sunset, black against the bright gold disk, the retreating navy now nothing more than dots on the map as the ocean rolled a deep, stormy dark over the horizon and beyond, right up to the glorious sun, waters frosted with crisping gold as the gale tore against the mountain's edge-
And than, Balder was speaking again, his accented voice clear and strong against the howl of the wind, breaking through the silence like a hammer smashing through golden glass.
The sun seemed to be melting into the deep.
My heart screamed.
"It's not a bad idea, actually."
I didn't even to bother to frown.
"What do you mean?"
"Your plan, dame," he said simply enough and this time, I turned back again, staring over at him as he stared back with a little cheeky smile, eyes bright and alive, golden curls laughing as he gleamed under the burning glow of the setting sun, "They won't be able to track us down in the Underworld…well, they can, actually…but they won't think of it, I'm sure! No, no way! Not that quickly anyway."
I didn't have the heart to smile back.
"How fast will it take anyway?"
A cheeky, little grin.
"About two weeks. Give or take."
"And they won't find us? Your family?"
"They won't think to look in hell, now would they? They know me. They know that after 4000 years underneath this rock, glimpsing the world through visions and my sword, they probably guess that I'll head off to somewhere nice and warm, somewhere up in Greece perhaps-"
"But they don't know you, now do they? They don't know how crazy you are."
I sighed into the icy, dark wind.
Waters rolled, dark and deep and quiet as death.
Waves crashed against sand, hushed thunders, far-away thunders.
Boats sailed, crashing through golden waves, racing to land.
My heart sobbed.
I clutched at the medicine man's eye again.
"So you think it's crazy than?" I sighed, staring over at his helpless, silly smile, my throat tight, my lungs tight, the wind howling and crying and slamming into my body with a million icy daggers, "This plan-"
Golden curls laughed.
"Of course it is, Joey! Did you even hear yourself? It's bonkers! Mad as a box of frogs?"
Somehow, the tiniest of smiles crept onto my lips.
"Mad as a box of frogs, huh?"
"Mad. Maddy, mad, mad.
"Yet we're still going through with it."
"Well, its not like we have any other plan, now do we?"
"I suppose not-"
"Oh cheer up, Joey!" he was shouting now, out in the darkening wind, a silly grin splat about his glowing face, grinning up to the fading sun as he spoke away with that maddening glee, eyes dancing with humour, with excitement," It's going to be an adventure! A great, big, bloody adventure-"
"Every adventure has a bit of blood, Joey-"
"We're going to Underworld to rescue Will, Balder," I frowned again, staring at his grinning face, gripping the sword tired as I spoke sternly above the howling wind, enjoying the last kisses of the setting sun, the last warmth of sunlight, "It's not an adventure. It's not a fieldtrip. It's a mission. A rescue mission-"
"We're not going there for fun-"
"But what's the point of doing something that's not fun?"
"Alright, alright," he swung up his large, pretty bow, raising it in mock defence as he grinned down at me, silly as ever, sheepish, eyes burning bright, golden tresses flying back into the gloom of the shadows of the night began to burn through the flaming skies, the sun melting away into the deep sea, my own frown sore and tired, "I get it. It's a mission."
"A rescue mission."
"A rescue mission I'm only going through with because, well…firstly, the Underworld is the safest place for me right now. Secondly…well…. I think they have bananas-"
"Would you shut up about the bananas?"
"It's a genuine concern!"
My only answer was a deep-set frown, which he imitated like a child, barely biting back his humour.
Frustration gnawed all over again.
The wind screamed.
With a roll of my eyes, I turned away from his mocking face and back to the scene before me, towards the growing shadows, the darkening sky, clouds now whipping dark over the sinking golden disk, ships silent and bright, the sea all around tossing with golden waves but darker, blacker, rolling to the ends of the world, bringing the song of the icy wind wherever it went; down below, far, far below, the boats were finally reaching shore, indiscernible crew men grounding the boats and pushing them through the massive, lapping golden waves, rushing to the shore, spray glittering, sparkling like pixie dust, delicate and fine, black jagged rocks nothing more than pinpricks of dark at this height. It was too dark to see any figures, too high to recognise anyone, to see if everyone was ok-
It was already too dark.
Night was coming.
I sighed into the cold gale.
"Will you do it?"
Balder's voice rang with humour.
"Do what, sweet?"
The wind sang sweet and cold.
My stomach twisted.
"Destroy the world," I turned, staring at him again, looking at him straight in the eyes, biting on my lip, clenching the warm hilt, curls wild and loose in the torrid icy wind, the sun melting away, "Start the war of the gods….bring an end to this universe as we know it…will you do it? Will you?"
His answer came with a blinding grin.
"You're afraid that you're being selfish."
I could barely gulp.
"I am being selfish," it came out as wince, a terrible, horrid wince, my throat swallowing back, hot and painful, understanding perfectly what I was doing, what I was risking, my stomach twisting sick at the thought, "I came to you, releasing you, knowing exactly what would come of you but doing it anyway, because all I want is Will-"
"In your defence, you never really quite knew until it was too late."
"Doesn't change a thing-"
"Joey, we can't go back!" He laughed, up into the wind, up into the darkening sky, the cold clutching at my bones, my throat tight, strangled, my lips frowning as I stared up into those burning, bright eyes, the pit in my stomach, the seed growing deep, growing wild, my heart tearing and sobbing into the fading light, "We can't, no matter how hard you try! You've released me-"
"And probably stared the apocalypse-"
"Maybe," he rose a free finger, grinning behind it, smiling happily, his burning eyes leaping with the flames of joy and laughter, golden tresses wild, golden filigree bright on the chest-strap, "Only maybe."
"Somehow, that's enough for me."
"You can't change what has already been done, Joey."
I sighed away into the dying sun.
"No. You can only make the best of it."
He never stopped smiling.
For a few more moments, we kept our silence, drifting away in the quiet of the fading day, watching as the sun faded away into the sea, the waves singing, the wind howling, the ships bobbing silently out in the distance with their little, blipping lights, boats dragging ashore, right out of the waters, the sky tearing away to the dark and lonely night…
Without so much as a sound, I causally slipped the sword into my holster, hanging it from my waist, dangling it by my thigh, somewhat relieved to remove the warmth from my hand, leaving it to glow bright and beautiful at the side of my hips. The metal weighed down, lancing like tongue of flames and in the torrid whirlwind of my flying curls, against the batting medicine man's eye, I turned towards Balder again, eyes wide, searching, my head shaking free all thoughts, all trepidation-
Because I had a mission.
A rescue mission.
I had to rescue Will.
And there isn't time for silly afterthoughts.
Balder's smile widened.
I cleared my throat.
"We could die."
"Mostly you. Mostly you could die."
"Maybe…but they could find us anyway."
"True…but I'm betting they won't."
A little chuckle choked at my throat.
"And you are willing to risk everything on a bet?"
His wink was a childish kiss.
"Sweetheart, I'm willing to risk the world on a bet."
My nose cringed helplessly.
"Somehow, that's not making me feel any better."
I narrowed my eyes.
For a moment, we kept silent, him matching my squinting, frowning face with a devilish grin-
And than, with a last sigh, I turned back to the sea, watching the sun edging its way down into the waters, sinking and sinking, falling and falling, the wind howling and pulling and tearing through my soul-
And I thought of Jared.
I thought of Scarlett.
I thought of Sparrow and Gibbs and Lestrade and Barbossa.
Hell, I even thought of Bootstrap.
I thought of home too.
I thought of our house.
I thought of Grams and Uncle Justin.
I thought of my lucky truck.
I thought of my Reed and Jasper and Stevie.
I thought of Dad and Johnny.
I thought of Will.
I thought of Will
I closed my eyes from the dying world.
"Does it have to be this way?"
His voice was like the beautiful bells of a wind chime, caught away in the cold gale.
The wind was so very sweet.
"Mortals can only enter the Underworld when they're dead."
My tongue was so dry.
"What? Having a god doesn't give me a free pass?"
A little, golden chuckle.
I sighed into the black.
For a moment, for just a moment, I waded into the darkness, enjoying the shadows, enjoying the quiet, never wanting to open my eyes again, never wanting to see the world again-
Because there was nothing left to see.
There was nothing at all.
My heart sobbed.
"Will…. Will it hurt?"
Balder's voice whispered like a dream in the darkness.
"Hold my hand."
With a soft sigh, I opened my eyes, tearing them open all over again, blinking dark lashes; the world opened up again, beautiful and wide, endless and glorious, the sun falling in the distance, the sky darkening overhead, the sea rolling quietly and peaceful, dark and silent, ships bobbing in silence, light flickering like fireflies, boats grounding, pulling ashore, wind cold and sweet, the entire world a mosaic, a heaven, a paradise of dreams, of memories, of real people and real things, of real family and real friends…
Of real love.
A paradise of real love.
This life was a paradise.
It was always a paradise.
I was just the fool who never realized it.
A tear trailed down my cheek.
My heart screamed.
I didn't want to do this.
I didn't want to.
Every bone in my body cried, refused, heels dragging into ash, begging me to stay-
But I couldn't.
Not without him.
Not without Will.
My heart burned.
In the silence of the dusk, in the fading light, in the dying world, I stared away into the sinking sun, into the beautiful sun, watching it disappear, vanish into the waves for the very last time, for the very, very last time, the day fading, light fading, night whispering above, pulling the darkness over the silent waves, over the silent ships and grounded boats, over the silence of the world, of this little heaven, of this little paradise-
Of my paradise.
I whispered into the wind.
My heart screamed.
Balder was standing there, smiling over at me, gentle and quiet, curls beautiful, face beautiful, blue eyes burning like azure flames, watching me, waiting for me, so beautiful, so radiant, so very perfect in the glow of the burning skies, his smile like a whispering dream in the dying day-
And a hand, a free, bronzed hand held out to me.
Waiting for me.
Waiting for me.
The tear fell like a star.
My heart died.
I'm coming, Will.
With a small smile, I grabbed Balder's hand, stared into the twilight and together, we stepped over the edge and into the black waves.
I can't believe that it's actually done!
I want to thank all you guys who helped encourage me, and who helped me write this in so many ways. Without your reviews, I would never have done this! Thanks to Riddle too, whose constant advice has more than once saved this project. You guys are awesome, and I really appreciate it!
I'm going to take a break for a little bit but please, remember to watch out for the sequel, "The Painting In The Attic: The War Of The Gods". I can't say exactly when the first chapter will be out, since I'm taking a break to write some original stuff. However, I'll be back soon so, until next time, see you!