The Voyages of the Dawn Chaser
Voyage One : Everything has to start somewhere
Jack Sparrow – a pirate captain and a smart man, with a taste for rum, long hair, long words and even longer plans
Elanor Cavendish – a ship's captain and a smart woman, with similar tastes - except that she'd rather have brandy
Ariadne – a ship's ghost – well maybe – very smart but with no tastes at all
Calypso – a sea goddess with a weakness for pirates, a wicked sense of humour and no sense of fair play
The Lady – herself
Barbossa – a pirate captain and a hard man with a liking for big hats, and a fear of inescapable curses and impending doom
Various crew – all of whom who had been loved by their mothers but possibly no one since
An Island Govenor
1. Colliding worlds
There are times when the only thing a sensible man can do is to get on with living, even if doing so means planning for death. No one in the whole world knew that better than Jack Sparrow, who certainly counted himself as one of the most sensible of men.
Indeed few men had more motivation to be so. He couldn't know for certain that the bloody locker, and its' inconvenient truths and terrifying trials, still awaited him now that Jones was gone, but nor could he know that it didn't. Not unless he was willing to attract the attention of a lady whose attentions were probably better not attracted for the moment. Not given her mood when last they met, or the size of his current boat and the, sadly, limited supply of rum.
Being Captain Jack Sparrow that meant that he had to find some way to change the facts and shift the balance of probability to something he was more comfortable with. Like improving the odds that he wouldn't die again.
In the meantime, being Captain Jack Sparrow, and having made his plans and set his course, he intended to take every opportunity offered to avoid thinking about anything much at all. Unfortunately for the moment any such opportunity was absent, the sea and staying afloat requiring some considerable thought given his objective and his craft.
It was a severe disappointment to be sure to be reduced to sailing another small boat that had seen better days when he had expected to sail off into the sunset in the Pearl; well equipped as she was for taking him into an legendary, nay immortal, sunset. More than a disappointment, there was no denying it. But who would have thought that Barbossa could manage to persuade yet another crew to abandon him? Oh, he had known that his long time rival was also desperate to avoid returning to the world of the dead, and that he would do almost anything to hold onto the life Calypso had returned to him; which in his case meant anything he thought he could get away with. Barbossa remained a mutineer at heart, whatever changes Calypso and dying might have wrought in his black soul. Jack also knew that the man was consumed with the need to best him if he could not kill him. But he had thought that the terrible fate of the last faithless crew to abandon Jack Sparrow would be protection enough against mutiny by the present one.
However it seems that he had badly miscalculated the degree to which fear would be lessened by greed. Even so, Jack admitted to himself, he shouldn't have left Barbossa alive and free, nor that perfidious monkey who no doubt had had a hand.....paw.. in events too. Tied to the mast perhaps……
But he wouldn't make that mistake again, and he would have another chance.
One of his greatest strengths, to his own mind at least, was his patience; that and an ability to plan over spans of time greater than the next hour, a skill rarely shared by his opponents, or so it seemed. He knew that they called him mad, and he took no offence at the assertion because to their minds no doubt he was; but Jack knew too that this so called madness was more a way of seeing the world, and while it was often an advantage it was very rarely a disadvantage. Why then should he bemoan it? It had not been madness that had cost him his beloved ship, but instead a most un-pirate like tendency to trust that others would be no more dishonest than he was. Tendencies that, since his time in that bloody locker, and his experience of a certain Miss Swann, he had resolved to curb.
It was, of course, something of a pity that he hadn't practiced that particular resolve a trifle sooner.
With a sigh he reached for the bottle propped against his boot and stared at the horizon, his mouth twisting into a wry smile; nor should he have overlooked Gibbs weakness for drink. No, nor underestimated the time it would take him to get the ladies to the dockside, (unforgivable that was, given that he had unlaced their stays for them often enough). Yet in the circumstances there was nothing for it but to be philosophical. What was, well …. was…. The time would come to act but there could be no changing anything for the moment.
Anyways the anger of another betrayal he hadn't seen coming was leavened by the thrill of the chase and a sense of purpose and anticipation that had eluded him for far too long. He was master of his own fate again with desires of his own to fulfil, rather than a knight in the service of destiny and slave to someone else's desir. A situation to be greatly preferred to his mind.
It could have been worse after all. This dingy might be small but it had not belonged to Annamaria, so one trepidation the less. Davy Jones and his many tentacled servant were gone, and Cutler Beckett would never again seek to end his life.
He felt the brand beneath his coat prickle at the thought of that part of his past, perhaps that meant his unpleasant memories of the late, unlamented, Beckett could also be consigned to the deep, a boon however he viewed it. The sun was high and the sea was looking friendly, he tipped a mental hat to Calypso and hoped it stayed that way, and there was rum enough for the moment. Losing the Pearl might be a set back but it was no more than that; the charts nestling close to his heart, still beating in his chest despite recent intentions, made it sure that she would find him even if he didn't find her. If luck ran with him he would find the Fountain before that event occurred, a distribution of advantage that made him smile whenever he thought of it.
Jack grinned a brief flash of gold, oh yes, all in all, it could have been a lot worse. He took a swallow of rum, Miss Bloody Swann…. Turner .. whatever....could be staring piteously at him for example, imploring that he exercise a chivalry that he didn't have. Or her dear William could be demanding that he bail him out of yet another ill thought scrape as if he were the lad's father, perish the thought! His smile faded, yes it could have been worse. They, at least, would not plague him again, not for the next ten years at least, by which time he had every intention of being in a state where such trials would be nought but a flea bite on the long neck of eternity.
William Turner, now Captain Turner, and that was as daft an idea as Captain Swann, would have his father to teach him and the advantage of a crew that couldn't mutiny, and ship that couldn't be sunk, to help. More than he deserved given his designs on the Pearl and his willingness to consign her captain to the locker. No better than Barbossa now he came to think about it. After all it was not his fault that Beckett had seen his chance in their actions all those months before. Nor was it his fault that William had wanted the compass to save his distressing young lady just at the same time as he himself had needed it to save his own life, now was it? What had the boy expected him to do, hand it over and consign himself to Davy Jones or the locker? True had hadn't actually told William about the locker…… but he doubted it would have made any difference if he had. Bill's son had the same one track mind as his father and woe betide anyone whose needs walked another track.
Then again nor had William told him about Beckett, and matters might have gone differentlyfor all of them if he had.
He took another swallow from the bottle, checked the wind in the sail against his course and settled down with his hand on the tiller.
It was a pity about the Dutchman of course, no one would ever know just how much he had wanted to take Jone's place; but in that moment he had found it impossible to do anything else, despite the costs. He had miscalculated, not the first time it was true, and letting that miscalculation take Will Turner's life had been a step too far, whatever treachery the boy might have been guilty of. Captain Jack Sparrow had never asked others to pay his debts. Well….. in the tavern maybe, or the bordello, or at the chandlers… those were ….unavoidable trifles. But he had never asked others to pay for his mistakes, nor to save him from them. No, it came down to what a man could do and what a man couldn't do, and misjudging Jones and then letting William die as a result so that he could take the helm of the Dutchman was something that Jack Sparrow couldn't do. However much he might wish it otherwise.
He took another swig of rum as remembered that terrible moment again, the sound of Will's groans and Elizabeth's frantic pleas drowning out the sounds of wind, weather and battle, and the triumph in Jones eyes.
Will would be fine now, and ten years was little enough to ask for a life returned. Jack had no doubt that Elizabeth would be waiting on the shore for him when the first chance to shatter his chain to the Dutchman presented itself. If he, himself, didn't find what he was looking for then maybe he would be there with her, ready to take up the duties, and the attendant immortality, as dear William set them aside in favour of wedded bliss.
Assuming he hadn't learnt better.
Jack grinned at the wind, no he wouldn't have learnt, and having a fall back plan never came amiss.
But all being well he would not need it. Barbossa might have the Pearl for the moment but he had no course. He, on the other hand, had both a boat and a course and could afford, in the circumstances, to wait for the opportune moment to reclaim the Pearl. He doubted he would have to wait ten years this time. Yes this second life could be very much worse.
With a contented sigh he took another swallow of rum and settled down to enjoy the freedom of the sea and the first part of this new adventure.
The prow of the ship sliced through the swell, the foam spitting upwards to form a shimmering haze about the bow, rainbows that hung on the air and at times almost obscured the name carved there. Dawn Chaser, too fanciful a name for this venture of course, yet she had refused to change it despite the sums being offered. A dreamy name, drawn from her childhood, too fey perhaps for the ship it adorned, a large, solid and elongated lady whose size and height was only offset by her elegance. A lady built for both speed and survival, rather like her owner.
That owner sighed and stretched. The sun had warmed the decks, the wood seeming to purr with the pleasure of it beneath her feet. The expanse of canvas was almost too white to be real in the bright Caribbean sun and the mock brass of the rails glittered with a brazen light. All in all it was a day to be glad to be alive and at sea.
The voyage had been very successful so far; no pirate had appeared from behind the horizon to challenge her, delays had been minimal and the first stages completed in the record time she had hoped for, and with no obvious damage, let alone any need to put into port. There had been some bad weather earlier on in the trip but no other threat. The one serious storm, an icy inferno with mountainous seas, had not exceeded the Chaser's abilities, or her captain's, and a number of smaller but uncomfortable squalls had been no more than a mild inconvenience. Now the colder, greyer seas were behind her, and for the moment the wind was warm and the waters almost impossibly blue.
Off to port a school of bright scaled fish leapt in flashes of silver and red heedless of the effort or the risk of predators. It was impossible not to smile as she watched them flying in the sunlight, just as it was impossible not to stretch her neck and turn her face to the sun, feeling the wind catch at her hair, pulling it from its' binding to tumble and whip about her face. On a day like today all the loneliness and weariness of such a venture was forgotten and the sea was the only companion that she needed.
The sea and Ariadne.
With a sigh of pleasure she settled back to doing nothing but watch the waters flashing beneath her.
The day was fading but the thought of a night at sea, even in such a boat, held no fear for Jack. The sea was the only place he felt himself to be himself, to be at home. Born of a pirate, raised as a pirate how could it be otherwise?
He had tried to be otherwise it was true, but fate had forced him back to his roots in short order, and the events of recent months had tied him to his destiny with bonds that could never be set aside. He would be a pirate forever now, wherever he went and whatever he did. The legend had grown wings of its own and would fly around the world and back again and then around it once more. Captain Jack Sparrow would forever be the pirate who defeated the Compnay andDavy Jones and gave sailors a new story to tell. His mouth curled in a set and bitter smile, his hand drifting down to the macabre object fastened to his sword hilt for a moment before he took another swallow of rum; his father would finally be proud of him.
A hurried gulp of the rum washed that thought away and he smiled again remembering Gibb's voice as he had sauntered away with the ladies. Sea turtles! Being a pirate had its advantages it was true, Gibbs was a good man and he'd make sure that the next time Jack made port in Tortuga he would find a welcome, even if he had to endure a slap or two for forms sake. 'Why' he mused to himself, 'couldn't everyone be like Gibbs. He never asked anything that couldn't easily be given, never expected you to be more than you said you were, and if he knew who you really were… well he never let you be sure of that.'
With a sigh of contentment he settled back against the miniature mast, tipping his head to watch as the sun set the clouds alight, turning the waves caps below them to scarlet lace. Calypso, at least, seemed to have declared a truce with him for the moment. He settled more comfortably, pulling his coat around him as the first star of evening staked night's claim to the sky. 'No,' he thought, 'the world would be a lot easier to deal with if everyone was like Gibbs. Or Norrington.'
He frowned, why had he suddenly thought of Norrington? The man was dead, for whatever that seemed to mean these days.
Jack pursed his lips as he thought a little more about that. Would Norrington have found his way back to the Dutchman? Assuming he had ever left it. What would be his choice, death or a chance to sail the seas a little longer? Jack almost laughed, a pleasant thought that one, he was minded to think that Will and Norrington deserved each other, both of them being so prone as they were to simple minds, hasty judgements and unwise affections. 'And betrayal, let's not forget the betrayals' he reminded himself.
Not that he wished the Commodore ill, never had, not when he had tried to hang him, not even after Norrington had taken Jones heart and fled to respectability and Cutler Beckett and so pitched them all into open warfare. You couldn't expect people do anything other than what was right by them, not when it came down to the bottom of it. That was all that Norrington had done, what he saw as right by him. He had succumbed to the dark side of ambition it was true, but as ambition was a large part of what Norrington was there was always going to be a dark side if the circumstances were right. Who could have foreseen that the circumstances would ever be so right?
Certainly not the Commodore himself.
Yet in the end he had come good, or so it seemed from what little Elizabeth had said of the matter, and who could ask more than that? Who could blame a man for showing himself to be less perfect than he thought himself when first the Lady failed to smile on him? Certainly not a man like himself who had seen the power of temptation and despair as often as he had found the rum bottle empty, whose own character was, according to some others, some very vocal and vexatious others, not entirely without its flaws.
No, it was true that Commodore Norrington had failed when first tested, but he had found his way back to himself, even if it took him adying to do it. Jack raised his bottle to the darkening sky, sighting on the first star of evening as it began to glow above the deepening blue of the horizon,
"Here's to you James Norrington. I hope you find what you were looking for."
The wind took his words and seeded them in the slap of the waves and the creaking of the sail canvas. Maybe they would reach Norrington, wherever he was.
He took another deep swallow of rum then corked the bottle and settled it at his feet, laying back to watch the rest of the stars come out to play. The wind was brisk, filling the sail in a workmanlike manner but not sufficient to demand his attention, and in the gathering dusk the memories ran like water through his mind, a bright flashing brook rippled by dark rocks and swirling eddies. Jack sighed, it seemed a lifetime since Will Turner had broke him out of jail to save Elizabeth. Which given his intervening death at the ungrateful madam's hand it probably was.
He pushed the sudden melancholy away, he had a second life now and he intended this to be a somewhat longer one. On that reassuring thought he allowed himself to drift into sleep.
The golden mood of the morning had lasted until mid afternoon but then it faded into something much less comfortable. At first it was no more than a vague impression that the air was colder despite the height and the white-yellow glare of the sun, but as the afternoon wore on the wind seemed to become uneasy, and though Ariadne insisted that nothing was amiss, the feel of the ship seemed to have shifted. Elanor knew her ship as she knew herself, fully, dispassionately and without sentiment, and though there was no of sign of trouble aboard the Chaser something was ruffling her back hair.
If it wasn't the ship then it had to be the sea. It was a blue as ever, the occasional shoal of bright coloured fish still visible in the smooth surface beyond the Chaser's draught, yet there was something oddly disturbing about the very calm of it. She set herself to determining the source of her unease, but despite all her investigations, and a long half hour staring at the horizon from the lookout, there was nothing to explain the sense of danger that set the fine hairs of her forearms bristling.
As the long afternoon drew to a close her sense of something amiss increased. Though the readings gave no reasons for it the sea had become more troubled in the last hour or so and a hint of fog could be seen on the horizon. The air had taken on an edge, like the changes before a storm, and a vague sense of unreality started to claw at her. If she turned quickly she thought she could see strange shadows on the edges of her vision, shapes and lights that faded as she faced them; there were sounds too, as if someone was whispering in her ear but in a voice too low to be heard. It felt as if the world was being viewed through a prism, one that showed almost true but not quite, the colours too perfect, the lines too straight, the curves too curved, and yet, other than that, all familiar and ordinary. She checked herself over but there was no sign that she was unwell, Ariadne gave her no reasons for her strange feelings, which, truth be told, bothered her more than the feelings themselves.
Nor could she shake the feeling that someone, somewhere, was watching her. There were moments when she felt compelled to spin around, hands reaching for the weapon at her belt, sure that some one or some thing had slid aboard the ship and was creeping up on her. Each time there was no one there, and she stood in the middle of the deck, dropping her fists to her side and wondered if she was going mad.
They had warned her that so much unaccustomed solitude could shake a person's sanity, but she had waved the warnings away. She was used to being alone with her thoughts, always was, even in a crowd, the simple absence of people could not threaten her. So she had thought. Until this moment she had also thought herself proved right, at no time had she felt the loneliness to be a burden more than she could bear. If she became bored or depressed Ariadne was there, and there was always the sea, her ever-changing companion.
But the sense of a presence somewhere close didn't go, though the empty sea stretched on to the horizon with neither sight nor sound of any other human inhabitant. She gathered her herself some food and settled at the prow as evening darkened the skies, watching the mists that seemed to be gathering on the horizon. High above the stars began to appear, their light made hazy by a veil of cloud. The shifting light set shadows dancing on the deck and she was tempted to light the lamps and banish them, but the beauty of the evening was such that she felt unable to disturb it. Instead she kept her eyes on the horizon and told herself that the whispering was nothing more than the wind in the ropes.
The fret arrived just before dawn, nothing unexpected in these waters. It was unusual for a mist to be so cold though, Jack pulled his coat tighter around him and frowned, and it was also unusual for the sea to be so flat, as if all vigour had been stolen from it. He cast a hurried look around him, realising that he could see no more than two arms lengths from the bow of the boat, a discovery that was more than a little unnerving. Maybe Calypso had not forgiven him after all; perhaps she was plotting her revenge on him even now. The Kracken might be dead but who could say which of her familiars were hunting in this strange fog. Maybe he should head for shore, wait for the sun to rise and take the chill from the air before resuming his course.
He got to his feet, and nearly fell on a wave of dizziness and fatigue. 'Bugger', he thought, 'can't afford to be unwell, not here and not now. Barbossa will have discovered the chart gone and will be hunting me and I'll need my wits about me for that encounter.'
True the crew would probably do nothing against their abandoned captain but there could be no denying that Hector's desperation would make him even more malignant that usual.
Another wave of dizziness shook him and Jack brushed a weary hand across his forehead, but the skin was no warmer than usual if a little damp from the spray and mist. He sank down again, no point in denying that he was tired, had been since before the locker, and that mammoth battle with Jones had driven him deep into his final reserves. But it was more than that and he knew it, the weariness stretched back to his realisation that he was about to lose the Pearl he had fought for so long and so hard to Jones, the Pearl and his life. Back to the horrors of that Turkish prison, the stench of a rotting corpse and the long terrifying hours in a suffocating coffin, and his near roasting on the island. Exhaustion had never really left him after that and only desperate need, and rum when available, had kept him on his feet in the weeks since his return to living. The bone deep weariness might have played more than a little part in his recent errors and miscalculations and he could not let them exact any further toll.
With resignation he realised that his head was hurting again, a now familiar pain behind his eyes that made him want to let them slide shut. But this pain was different, this time it felt as if the pressure was coming from outside of him rather than from within his head. His scalp was prickling too, and the hairs on his arms and legs were on end, as if a storm were coming. Jack sighed, ever since he had first made Elizabeth's acquaintance he seemed to be constantly getting wet, now it seemed likely that he was in for another drenching.
Closing his eyes against the pain he reached down for the rum bottle, like so often in the past it was the only thing to hand to make things bearable. The first swallow did nothing to improve his mood, so he took another, then another before corking the bottle and letting it fall back to the bottom of the boat. He waited for the familiar warmth and relief to seep through him, but all that happened was that he was struck with a deep desire to heave the lot back over the side. He swallowed hard on the contortions of his stomach, 'oh bugger' he moaned to himself, 'this is not the moment for the rum to betray me too.' He squeezed his eyes more tightly closed and swallowed again, wondering if this was how it felt to be seasick.
The pressure seemed to grow by the minute, and, burying his head in his hands, he tried to rub away the growing ache , aware that he was cold despite his coat and hat. Jack didn't think he'd ever felt so miserable at sea before and fear clutched at him as he wondered what the long-term consequences and effects of his escape from the locker might yet prove to be. Death had indeed a way of changing priorities, particularly when there was the risk that it was no death at all but instead an eternity in the desert of Jones making. Norrington had been fortunate by comparison. His own attempts to evade Jones had taken him deep into unfamiliar waters and led him to actions that still, when recalled, made him feel somehow less than himself. Not that he had been alone in this corruption, Elizabeth and Will had, like the Commodore, also been tainted by their encounters with Calypso and her lost lover. Barbossa had long been too tainted to count.
But if anyone of them had earned redemption, other than Norrington, then surely it was himself? Yet it seemed unlikely that he would be the one to profit from those redeeming actions.
The pain grew as he thought about it and his stomach twisted again as his thought fled back to the deck of the Dutchman and as he remembered the feeling of holding everything he wanted, everything he had ever wanted, in the palm of his hand. The surge of joy and elation was beyond anything he had ever felt before, only equalled by the horror and indecisions that followed so quickly on its heels. The memories poured in again and throb of his head seemed to beat in time with the pulse of Jones heart; the sound of it was deafening, the light behind his closed eyelids taking on the same colour as the shuddering organ. It could have been so easy, it should have been so easy, he could have stabbed the heart and had what he wanted most in the world, and an end to all his fears and exhaustion. If only he had stabbed the heart.
Yet he had stayed his hand.
He could have taken the risk that William would survive long enough for it to be his own captaincy that claimed him rather than Jones, that as captain he could give his crewman time ashore, that Calypso would allow it. But he had been so very tired, his head still reeling from the blow of a moment before, and though he had managed to open the chest and forestall Jones first intended sword thrust he was too tired to think it through when the choice came. So he hadn't risked it. Instead he had taken pity on her grief and desperate fear, looked sadly on a young man's dying light, and had put that one chance of everything he had ever wanted into someone else's hand.
Would William have done as much for him, a pirate whatever else he was, if their roles had been reversed? Would he do as much for him now should things go badly and the Dutchman found his dying body adrift in this small boat? He doubted it.
'It could happen' some small part of him whispered, and he shuddered wondering if the shades of himself, abandoned with the madness in the Dutchman's brig, had found him again.
Now instead of his heart's desire he faced a future bounded by the things he feared most. Only the fountain offered him a second chance and he must take it before that was snatched away too. He raised his head and pulled out the compass, squinting at it through the red glow behind his eyes, it still showed the same course, no flicker of indecision then. He had no choice, he would put up with the discomfort of the mists and the pains in his head, take the risk of deeper water and follow that steady needle to his remaining hopes of freedom and the Pearl.
"Him wilt die." Calypso said to her companion, her voice and face sad. "I did not intend for that. Davy Jones has marked him bad and I am afeared that he will not survive it, even though he escaped the locker." Around her the blue seas took on a shade of grey.
The other was silent but her quizzical look conveyed all that was needed between them. Calypso sighed,
"I caan nat change it. It is nat the sea he needs to fear, but himself. His need be driving him into dangerous waters, too dangerous for so small a vessel. I caan nat warn him, he will nat listen. Him do nat trust me. Why would he? I understand that well. He has surrendered all that him longed for and for no reward again, now Jack Sparrow will go where his compass takes him, even if it be the destination him be trying to avoid. Even were I to take it back him would still travel the same road, you know that to be so."
The silent figure at her side merely looked at her.
"I mean him na harm." Calypso protested, " him would not free me 'tis true but only because him knows me so well," she gave a small, smirking, smile that set the wave caps around the little boat dancing, "and him love me still," she purred.
She cast a sly, sideways look at her companion's half smile, and flicked a hand,
"Him nat born to love just one, him heart nat intended for it, nat yet, and loving me does nat mean he cannot love elsewhere too. Would you abandon him now, see him cold and drowned for his love of me?" she demanded.
Her companion remained silent but some shift in her expression caused Calypso to lean closer towards her, one shimmering hand coming to rest lightly on a golden sleeve,
"I caan nat change what he sail towards, nor caan I master it. No more caan yout. But there may be a way. Alone we can do nothing to save him but together we can prolong his story, should we decide too. What say you Lady, shall we preserve witty Jack?"
There was a moment of silence, contemplation maybe, then the Lady inclined her head and looked out towards the little boat with its brave and tiny flag. She moved to stand with Calypso at its' prow, watching the weary, dark eyed man closely as he struggled with his unwelcome thoughts. Slowly and thoughtfully she stepped down onto the planks and moved closer to him, staring down into black lined eyes that were suddenly lost and sad.
The Lady cast one long look back towards the now silent Calypso, as if making an agreement, and then she spread her fan, tilted her head back towards Jack Sparrow, and smiled.
Elanor was as close to afraid as she had been at any time on the voyage so far.
Her head hurt, and stomach churned as she stood at the rail, fingers locked in a painful spasm on the shining surface. There was no reason for her to feel ill, yet she did. If she didn't know better she could almost imagine that she was seasick, but she never was seasick. The food and water were fine, she had been careful about the hot sun and had made sure that she protected herself from the worst of the winds; there was no reason for her to be ill. But there was no point in denying that she had felt much better, and not so long ago. This malaise had crept up on her with the mists and whatever it was that they were hiding. Even Ariadne was at a loss, about both the fog or where the winds were taking them. Or why she was feeling so unwell.
She had forced herself to push away the weakness long enough to allow her to check the weapons, knowing that this fog could hide any number of pirate ships or similar raiders. She had always known the risks, and thought them worth the prize, if she were destined to lose the gamble now then she would go down fighting and take as many of them with her as she could.
But there was no one to fight, and as the darkness deepened she was glad of that. The headache got worse, and her skin began to prickle, the hairs of her arm bristling. She set Ariadne to watch and collapsed by the forward mast, watching as the mist deepened, rolling in off the sea, hiding the stars and potential enemies alike.
Now it was a wall, she could see only a few feet beyond the prow and the pounding in her head was worsened by the effort of staring into a horizon she couldn't see. The Chaser ploughed on, heading for who knew where; but there really was no choice, she could stop and wait and hope that the mist dissipated yet, while she could not see who might be creeping up on her. The risks didn't seem to be worth the benefits.
How long she sat staring into the growing darkness she couldn't tell, it seemed hours but it could have been minutes. The mist seemed to be pressing closer as if it wanted to swallow her and the Chaser, and the sense of unreality deepened. She thought that she heard whispers on the wind again and saw lights, indescribable lights, in the damp blanket beyond the ship. They were only the beginning. The air seemed to come alive, twisting and turning, bending and flexing the world around her. Then the noise began, the sound of breaking glass and shrieking wind and booming surf all merged into one roaring indescribable sound, it seemed as if her ears were being assaulted by the screams of every harpy in hell.
Elanor hung on to a mast desperate to reassure herself of the reality of the world around her, her fingers stroking the wood, exploring the grain as if finding it would return the world to normality. It didn't.
Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse the lights from the depths of the mist converged on the ship, flashing around its perimeter, chasing up the masts, painting the sails in every colour of the rainbow and some that she suspected the rainbow had never seen. It was fire and lightning, star light and laser light all rolled into one and yet none of them.
Now her eyes hurt too much to be open and she buried her head in her hands trying to shut out both sound and light. The timbers of the Chaser seemed to shiver as if every atom were fighting to break free of every other, the grain magnified a hundredfold and the surface hot and cold at the same time.
For the first time she wondered if this voyage would be the death of her.
Then, impossibly, the lights grew brighter and the sound became a full howling wail, the pressure of it bruising her skin and numbing her eardrums. Out at sea the light merged into one great sheet of lightning that seemed to push the wall of the mist away from her like a giant finger. Death, it seemed, came on wings of light not darkness.
For a moment it appeared that the world was ended; there was no wind, no sea, no ship, just the barrage of sound and light and a feeling that the air itself was exploding. The Chaser seemed to hesitate for a moment, her bow sinking slightly as if snagged on some unseen reef, and Ariadne shrieked a banshee warning that Elanor couldn't hear. Then there was a flash still brighter than the rest, a scream louder than the others and the Chaser seemed to shudder from prow to stern, the desk twisting and bucking beneath Elanor's feet. The moments stretched to eternity and then the ship ploughed forward again, the bow rising up to ride the swell as if cut free from some unseen mooring line.
Suddenly the curtain of mist was spinning away from her and then there was sea and sky and stars and the world was familiar again. She had time to draw a single breath of relief, but no more than that, before the Dawn Chaser hit something.
Around him the mist was deepening and the wind seemed to be rising, yet the sea remained as calm as ever, it was as if he had moved beyond the human world and back to some strange land beyond the edges of the map. For a heart stopping moment Jack wondered if these past weeks, the Brethren court, the maelstrom and the battle against Beckett had all been nothing but a dream, another cruel illusion generated by the locker. Had Elizabeth and Will really rescued him? Had Barbossa truly returned from the dead to free Calypso and steal the Pearl yet again, or was it all another hallucination and was he still in the hell of Jones making? His stomach made another attempt to climb out his throat as despair gripped him, how could he ever be sure? There was no way of knowing what the locker could do, never would be. so how could he know this, or anything else, was real?
Jack dropped his hands into his lap and opened weary eyes to stare with resignation towards the horizon he couldn't see; even if he returned to Elizabeth and his father and the safety of the fortress at Shipwreck cove, or if he found and took back the Pearl, that thought would always remain with him. That and the fear that he was still dead and that none of it was real any longer.
'But that looks bloody real' his mind screamed as he saw a sudden shadow in the mist. Not just real, but also big and solid and fierce, and heading straight towards him. A ship may be, or some thing worse, it didn't really matter given that he couldn't get out of its way.
Bugger, locker or not it looked as if he was about to die again.
Calypso watched the vessels as they moved towards one another with a smile on her mouth and in her eyes. Give the Lady her due she could be very creative; this was not a course that would have occurred to her to plot but it achieved their ends admirably, and she could see yet other potential within it. She nodded her approval as she watched as the curtain she could not touch was drawn aside and as the strange ship, and her even stranger crew, tore through the open gateway. Many a lesson might be taught and much fun might yet be had with witty Jack and this collision of worlds. So she smoothed the waves and timed the swell to keep his little boat from the worst of the impact with the monster that had just appeared.
Calypso cast her eye over the woman riding this dragon's back. No doubt this was another of the Lady's beloveds, two birds with one stone perhaps? Though not necessarily a wise stone, not given all the implications. Calypso's smile widened, but then the Lady had always been profligate and she cared little for the effects of her actions on those others less loved. Though she, herself, could see problems ahead as the result of this she was glad of the intervention, whatever it brought, if it meant that he was given another chance.
She turned her attention fully on the other captain, her smile widening as she realised the nature of her. This woman was like her ship, strong and well disciplined and awash with hidden secrets, the shape of which Calypso could only just make out. Her laugh rang out as she watched the woman haul the stricken Jack aboard like a landed fish. No love struck, angry and rebellious child this one, Elizabeth Swann would be but a girl besides her. No this one was a lady whose heart was nearly as wild and free as Calypso's own, but one whose blood was a mite colder and whose loving was better guarded.
She watched as the pirate was laid unceremoniously on the desk, as the unnamed woman ran her hands lightly over him in search of damage, barely noticing the singularity of the man's appearance in her anxiety to know the sum of her injury to him.
Calypso moved to stand beside her as her fingers explored, feeling some small concern as she noted the foam pale face and trickling blood; much though she had loved Davy Jones she had always had a soft spot for Jack Sparrow, another reason that Jones had hated him so much. Yet there was no denying that the pirate had a lesson or two coming. Witty Jack got away with far too much when women were in the equation, and, though she felt no sympathy or sisterhood for the whores who expected him to love them as well as share their favours, she knew that he would benefit from a wider experience. She had his best interests at heart, she told herself, though that might not be how he would see it. At least not yet. No, she would not intervene to protect him from the storm he was sailing in to.
Calypso shared a secret look with the silent companion now at her side,
"Maa compliments Lady, for finding the way," she purred, "and such a way. Seem like you achieve our objective and offer some future amusement too. 'Tis a fine ship and its captain seems a woman of my own heart. I shall enjoy watching his struggles with her."
The Lady's eyes seemed to glow within the shadow of her broad brimmed hat and her smile took on a brighter edge. Calypso laughed again as she caught the look and wondered what else the Lady had up her golden sleeve.