Voyages of the Dawn Chaser

Voyage Three - Lucifers Sword

Title: Voyages of the Dawn Chaser 3 Lucifer's Sword
Characters: Jack, OCs, Barbossa, BP crew, Gibbs , Calypso, Groves and sometimes the navy. No pairings at present.
Rating: PG for Jacks turn of phrase, and also some politics
Disclaimer: Characters belong to whosoever international law says they do, which for most of them certainly isn't me and I'm content
When: Post AWE

Chapter 1 - The Chase

The chase was on and the prize was the Black Pearl. Jack might tolerate that perfidious mutineer Barbossa striding her decks again for a while, and for a purpose, but never the navy.

The Dawn Chaser had been built for speed, amongst other things, and it showed. Never more so than now when even the seas and winds seem to conspire to enable her to do her best.
'Her best was more than impressive, was nigh on unimaginable if he were honest', Jack thought, standing at the rail, and he did a silent recalculation of his plans as he watched the pace of the water flowing beneath him and the rate at which the shoreline disappeared.

As the land faded into shadow he climbed to the helm and peered over Elanor's shoulder, watching those little lit up windows in silence while Ariadne displayed a stream of depth readings to her captain as she steered them out to who knew what. However this ghost did it she most certainly had the line well beat, Jack had to admit that, even he couldn't have taken the Pearl out of this bay at anything like this speed. No, he resolved silently, whatever reservations he might have, he most certainly wasn't letting this advantage skip away from him.
'And the fact that such a thought occurred does not amount to an admission that I have any..... reservations at all, or even .. ...feelings of responsibility,' he told himself sternly.
Elanor and her ghost could most certainly take care of themselves, and if they couldn't then one or other of them had only to say so. Though he still wasn't quite sure what he would do if one or other of them did.....say so that was. But he'd face that choice when it happened. 'Don't seem likely to happen anyways', he reassured himself as he watched Elanor's hands oh so confidently steer her ship away from land. He transferred his gaze to her face and wondered for a moment just how many times she had sailed to battle before, and with whom. He'd bet a cask of the best rum the Caribbean had to offer that this was not the first time. Then, with a half shiver, he pushed the thought away, reassuring himself that she had never seemed particularly blood thirsty. He could probably persuade her to walk the way of discretion should the need arise.

They left the island behind them before the sun had risen, not even waiting to take on the supplies Jack had purchased in Tortuga. It seemed that the ship was still well stocked and even if they had to live on grilled fish that it was a small price to pay for keeping the Pearl out of naval hands. Not that it seemed likely that they would, for Polly had provided them with additional provender. She and Elanor had gone into long and private conversation in the hour after Elanor had relayed the findings of her ghost's snooping, and then Polly had roused her neighbours and set about raiding store cupboards and barns. There had been a stream of people manhandling goods down to the shore in those early hours, and the long boats had made several trips, each one heavily laden. But it was done with goodwill and Jack had seen the flash of gold in the dim light as Elanor paid handsomely for the donations. He'd smiled to himself and wondered if her maybe ancestor would have parted with so much gold to people such as these with the same good grace. Did the woman know the meaning of the term barter he wondered?

But then he would not have bartered in such a circumstance either, and that trait, un-piratey though it might be, had bought him enough goodwill in the past to survive in harder times. Thief he might be when required, but fool he was not. Nor it seemed was she. Certainly she managed to avoid doing any of the rowing without appearing to try, and he wondered if Polly had conspired at that too.

Both he and Gibbs had complained at the weight that had to be rowed, pointing out that the food would be rotten before they could eat it. But Elanor had simply smiled and told them to get on with it if they wanted to be away by dawn, Polly had watched them with a serious face, and a somewhat baffled expression, but had kept the food coming. When Elanor had signalled that she would take no more Polly nodded and said that that Ben would collect the supplies from the port as agreed and hold them until the Chaser returned. Then she had gone back to the farm and what sleep the night could still offer her.

Jack could not help but notice that Elanor was now granted the same respect as himself, and was fully accepted as a person of authority, a ship's captain, by all of Polly's clan. The realisation caused him a certain amount of unfamiliar confusion, a mix of pride, gratitude and resentment warred in his breast, but he was damned if he knew why. Even so it was there and so far he hadn't managed to resolve it, in fact was doing his best not to think about it at all. Not that it mattered, soon he would have his own ship back and then he could put some water between them, though not enough to allow her and her ghost out of his sight, at least not for long. Assuming they were all of them still in one piece by the end of it that was. But there was a more than good chance they would be, he reassured himself as the ship slipped silently into deep water, under full canvass and on course for the Black Pearl and whoever was chasing her.

Open sea achieved Elanor turned the helm over to her ghost and went below to review her charts over breakfast, leaving Jack to his thoughts and Gibbs still dozing.

After five minutes or so of hesitation Jack followed her.

***

Christmas had passed if not unmarked at least poorly celebrated on the Intrepid. The slightly longer morning service in honour of the new Christ child and a double issue of ale to wash down a small amount of pudding being the only real change to routine. Hathaway had considered putting into port for the festivities but the strange behaviour of the Black Pearl, and some very unseasonable weather, kept them at sea. He had spent Christmas in some very unusual ways during his service to the crown, including passing one in a very unpleasant Spanish jail, but he had never before spent it playing cat and mouse with a ship that seemed leaderless and a sea that seemed to conspire to protect her from the consequences of that state. One more reason to feel unnerved. Hathaway, like Groves, was becoming very uncertain about the business. Or rather he was becoming certain that something other than normal events was in play. A possibility that he really didn't want to think about, yet one that he couldn't avoid picking at like a half healed scab.

It might have been easier if he could have supposed that Davy Jones was behind it, but Groves had squashed that hope when it was suggested.
"No sir, as far as I could tell Jones did not control the seas. The Dutchman was not threatened by wind or weather, and she could submerge if needed, but Jones had no power over the sea itself."
"He was not a true sea god then?"
"No sir, Jones was what the stories said he was, a ferryman for souls lost at sea, at least if Beckett was to be believed. Though it is true that little of what he told us at the time proved to be the truth."
Hathaway watched the heavy swell between them and the Black Pearl, a swell that was running against them and slowing them considerably, and he frowned,
"So the maelstrom was none of his making?"
Groves shrugged,
"Not as far as we could judge. Though it is true that the manner of its coming was very strange. One moment the sea was calm and the weather set fair then suddenly the barometer was falling like a stone, cloud and wind arrived from nowhere and then that infernal storm began. Caused a lot of muttering on the decks."

Hathaway was silent for a moment,
"Did Beckett comment on that? The suddenness of the storm that is," he said eventually.
"No sir. But.." Groves hesitated for a moment watching the captain's face, then, seeing only interest, he went on. "Beckett was a strangely unimaginative man sir. Given events I mean. He knew about Jones, and what he was, and yet it did not give him any pause, it did not cause him to reconsider his actions, in any way. You might have thought that the proof of something so supernatural would have been reason to worry about the safety of his own soul, given what he had done. Yet it seems to have had no effect upon him at all. James Norrington commented upon it to Governor Swann, or so I heard, he said that a man using the power of the gods to gain his ends would do well to wonder how the gods might view that matter."
"Gods Mr Groves? Was that the term he used?"
"I wasn't present at the conversation sir, but it was mentioned in the wardroom and the report was that he spoke of gods. But it might have been just a word, indeed when I first heard of it I assumed he was referring to the old stories and meant nothing more by it. Only afterwards did I..." his voice tailed away unhappily.
"Yes." Hathaway's voice was bland but understanding, "A lot of people had sudden cause to consider the state of their souls after that day, even the highest one might think. For most it would have been uncomfortable. To have such proof of the strangeness of life and death... "
He let the words trail away, Groves of all people did not need to have the matter elaborated.

After a moments silence he resumed his questioning,
"But tell me what the stories about Jones were exactly, I've heard many in different places."
Groves nodded,
"So had I sir, but the one that seemed to have most credence by... those who had close experience of Jones..."
'James Norrington' Hathaway added the name silently, but said nothing to disturb Groves account for fear that the man might wonder why he was being asked to repeat what he had told so many times before. But that thought didn't seem to occur to him, like many afflicted by such guilt he could not speak of it enough, as if in doing so he might find some excuse that he had missed before.
"Well, according to the story Jones" Groves was saying, "had been charged with ferrying the souls lost to the sea by a sea goddess; and if Jones existed then so might the goddess. Indeed most of the men thought that she must for how else could one such as Jones exist? Beckett was believed to know this for a fact, he had found out while Turner was aboard the Endeavour, before he was exchanged for Sparrow."
"Yet Beckett did not fear her?"
"It seemed not sir, and yet there were rumours that the pirates might have control over this goddess in some way, and that that Jones had tried to destroy her and was likely to feel her wrath if she found out. When the storm blew up there was a lot of muttering below decks that it was the goddess's doing."
"Is that why Beckett's armada retreated without a shot fired?"

"Well...." Groves hesitated then gave a mental shrug, his career was already doomed and so there was no point in not saying it, "most of them had not wanted the fight to begin with, and by this time they had seen enough of Beckett to wonder at the desirability of him winning."
He drew a deep breath as his mind dredged up memories he would rather avoid,
" Stories of Mercer and his acts had been circulating for some time, ...about.... Miss Swann, and others too, and they made many men uneasy. The idea of facing the wrath of the Dutchman once she was no longer on their side was enough to change the minds of most. Even the faintest possibility that the pirates had a sea goddess at their backs swayed those who might otherwise have been tempted to stay and fight."
Hathaway was silent for a moment, watching the black sails that somehow stayed on the horizon despite their efforts to catch her.
"A sea goddess! A formidable enemy if such a one existed, so let us hope they were just stories Mr Groves. Sparrow having Jones at his beck and call is bad enough, but if he has a sea goddess up his sleeve then he is truly invincible, if he wishes to be. Or anyone who can persuade him to be their friend."

Groves frowned,
"But does he sir? Are we sure that he wants anything at all? Why haven't we heard from him? He could have stated his terms weeks ago."
Hathaway drew a deep breath and spoke slowly,
"I don't know, but the mind of Jack Sparrow is not easily read Mr Groves. All paint and play is Captain Jack Sparrow and the man beneath them is not so easy to fathom. The biggest mistake you can make in dealing with him is to judge him by what he seems to be. Unless, perhaps, it is to judge him by what most men would do, or even want to do. That was probably James Norrington's mistake."
"Sir?" Groves questioned.
Hathaway smiled grimly,
"It's a bad mistake to view Sparrow in the light of your own desires Mr Groves, yet that is what he inveigles most men into doing."
"Desires sir?" Groves now sounded rather nervous as if somehow he had been led in murkier waters than he expected an officer to venture.
Hathaway smiled at the tone,
"Desires, Mr Groves, your wants and needs and wishes. Sparrow reads them and far better than most, and he adjusts his behaviour accordingly. He watches your voice, your face and body, and with every movement and word you arm him against you. He is always on the alert, even when he seems to be beyond caring, or drunk; in fact most particularly when he seems to be drunk. Take my word for it, never, ever, take your eyes off Sparrow when he seems to be in his cups."
Hathaway looked back towards the fleeing ship,
"On the surface he is simple enough, but that surface is what he wants to keep you seeing, and if you do so it will always lead you astray with him."

Groves looked at him in shock,
"You sound as if you have known him sir?"
Hathaway's face was nearly expressionless but there seemed to be a shadow in his eyes,
" Oh I've met him Mr Groves, though knowing him is a different matter. I doubt that he would recall me, and I certainly hope not. I would not want to be remembered for that. But yes I have met him and I can well understand why James Norrington found him so difficult to swallow."
He turned back to the man at his side and raised a warning finger,
" If you have direct dealing with Captain Sparrow then remember this, he learnt the harshest of life's lesons early and far too much of what most men value mean nothing to him at all, he knows it for the sham that is all too often is, and what does matter to him perhaps matters too much. Corner him and he'll shine and shimmer at you and in that reflected light you'll not see the shadow beneath, but the shadow will be what matters. If he needs to he'll flirt and flounce and bend his knee to you, and you will think that primping is everything that he is and discount him for a drunken, whoring fool, forgetting the pirate that he also is. By the time you recall it he will be gone. Or he will have a pistol in your ribs, or a chain around your beloved's neck."
The look on Hathaway's face held Groves silent, then the captain's hand dropped and he turned away again,
"That was the lesson Beckett learned, and learned in such a manner that he never forgave Sparrow for it."

***

The below decks was as tidy and neat as the decks themselves, and all the supplies were gone from sight, somehow disappeared behind one of those doors that was always locked. Jack glared in the direction of one of them as he sauntered down the passageway towards the galley, in all the weeks he'd been aboard this vessel had not found a way to open those doors. But one day he was going to find what was behind them he promised himself again, not that he was sure how given that they had no obvious locks, or at least none that had keys that he would recognise. No doubt her ghost was custodian of those nether reaches of the ship, and so far he'd made no progress in getting around her either.

He found his fellow captain in the galley with charts scattered on the table and a cup of something long and hot in her hand.

"She was here," Elanor tapped the chart with a long and naked finger, " According to Ariadne she had been sailing in circles for some time."
She looked up at Jack with a frown,
"Was this man who took her an experienced sailor?"
Jack raised his brows at the unexpected question.
"Hector? Been at sea man and boy for close on half a century. Ten years of that he was technically dead mind."
His brows drew together as he reconsidered that in light of his own experience. He flapped a hand as if to underline his uncertainty,
"Well not dead exactly, more.. rather... let's say not alive.
"Something you had in common then." She said calmly.
Jack frowned at her,
"Not so. Hector was killed fair and square and in a way no pirate could take issue with. He passed over in the proper manner, and his body should have been taken by the sea when it reclaimed the island. How Tia Dalma recovered his body I don't know, nor even if she did. For all I know she created him one from somthin' else. I'd not say she couldn't. Though it seemed like enough to the original for it to be the one I shot a hole in. Then again I didn't ask to see the wound when we met. Me not wantin' to encourage undesirable familiarity with the old traitor you understand."

"So he should be able to sail." She mused her eyes locked on something that looked to Jack to be a small picture frame full of writing, "Well enough to give this ship that's following him the slip, for the weather seem to be with him. Yet Ariadne's readings would say the contrary. Strange."
His eyes widened as the writing suddenly seemed to move and he reached out a covetous hand, but Elanor slipped it into her pocket before he could get as much as a finger in striking distance. He glared his displeasure but her eyes were back on the charts,
"But where would he be going? He's not headed for Tortuga, nor Jamacia, nor Cuba. In fact he seems to be sailing in circles." She looked up at Jack with a frown, "They must be low on food and water if nothing else. Yet they show no sign of trying for land. They run from the ship that's following them but not with any purpose that I can see."

He joined her in staring down at the chart listening carefully as she described how the Pearl had been moving, but her behaviour made no more sense to him than it did Elanor.
"Something is odd," he said slowly when the explanations were finished, "Hector might be a treacherous dog, and an unimaginative one at that, but he's a better captain and sailor than this would suggest."
"Could someone else be in command?"
"Can't see as how, " Jack bit at his lip, "there were no one left on the Pearl who would set up in opposition to him, not having got Gibbs off, and he was in good enough health as far as I recall. Though it was true that he was a little strange."
"Strange?"
Jack gave her a droll look,
"He left me whole and in port when he took my ship, that's not Hector's way at all. He had no great love for me and I would have thought he would have preferred to leave me at least a little damaged. But he had been something unlike himself since we met on the Locker shore." He shrugged, "Just put it down to the fact that he needed me alive."
Elanor rolled the chart and sipped her drink, watching as Jack tapped his finger on the tabletop as he thought.
"Have you any idea about what we are going to do when we find them?" she said eventually. "According to my calculations if the wind days with us that will be in about three days time."

Jack didn't intend to ask himself why Elanor was so willing to chase his ship for him, nor why it was that she apparently taken it for granted that they would. He certainly wasn't going to ask her. But it had made him uneasy, though he wasn't about to admit it even to himself.
"And this ship that's followin'? You are sure that it's navy?"
"No I'm not sure, but it has the right sort of specification and who else is likely to be following them this way?"
"Aye that's true. But why would they be doing it either? Why not just blow her out of the water?"
"Ariadne and I had some thought on that, we think they want to take the ship intact."
"Why? They are the navy for God's sake, they sink pirates, that's what they do. Seems like that it's all some of them want to do!"
"We are back to the Commodore again are we? " she muttered.
"Not likely since he's dead, but he weren't the only one who wanted to see me hung!"
"But they don't want you dead now do they? At least not yet."
Jack drew a deep sigh,
"No. The bloody heart again. They want the ship to draw me out, that what you think?"
She nodded calmly, and he frowned,
"Well makes sense, I suppose. At least as much as any thing seems to make any sense these days. They must know that if they take her I'll try and take her back, might plan on catching me while I do it."
He grinned at her,
"Optimistic of them."

She seemed unwilling to comment on that, but that might have been because something else was worrying her,
"I can't be seen Jack, you know that. If there is a way for me to aid you and the Pearl without being seen then I'll do it, but I can't be seen."
Jack hunched a shoulder,
"I know that. I'll not ask you to risk it. If you can just get me close enough to see how the land lies I'll be satisfied. The Pearl can outrun almost anything but the Dutchman, and even her in the right conditions, that she is danger of being caught gives me grave concerns about Hector's sudden loss of seamanship. Something has occurred, something untoward, and I need to know what it is. If I can get aboard then I can get her away and meet you when and where it is safer."
Elanor stared at him,
"Get aboard! How do you plan on doing that?"
"I'll manage it somehow just get me in sight of the Pearl then leave the rest to me."
With that he had sauntered off as if he didn't have a care in the world, though she knew him well enough now to read the tension in the set of his shoulders. She followed him back up to the deck in thoughtful silence

***

Gibbs was awake and standing at the rail staring out to the horizon and he turned as he heard Jack come on deck, but the greeting died on his lips as he took in the look on his friends face. Jack passed him without a word heading for the long boat. For a moment Gibbs watched him with anxiety in his face, then he crossed to stand beside Elanor,
"What's up with Jack?" he asked in a not so quiet whisper.
"The Black Pearl. She's not behaving as he thinks she should, at least not if this Hector was behaving as he should."
Gibbs grunted his understanding,
"Nothin' makes Jack as mad as the Pearl. Her loss drove him to near distraction once before and I don't think it will be any different this time. While Barbossa was in his right mind Jack could rest easy in the knowledge that he'd not risk the ship, but if he thinks that has changed then he'll not rest until he has got the Pearl back beneath his feet again. Be like a bear with a sore head he will until the matter is settled."
Elanor nodded,
"I noticed. He's mad indeed of he thinks we can get him on a fleeing ship in the middle of the ocean and without being seen."

It was Gibbs turn to nod, he sighed too,
"But he'll not give up ma'am, Jack he never do. Might put matters to one side for a while but he never gives up. This time there will be no puttin' it aside either I'm thinking'."
"No I 'd bet that you are right. Damn the man does he want to get himself killed just when....." she pulled herself up realising that they hadn't told Gibbs about the effects of the fountain and that now was probably not the time to do it.
If Gibbs noticed there was no sign of it.
"But can't say that I'd call him wrong for all that," he mused, "for what your ghost says is strange, mightly strange. Barbossa, now, is not what you might call a good man, nor even a good pirate, and there be few on the seas who'd mourn his passing, but he is a good sailor and for him to be playin' this cat and mouse game then something terrible be afoot. Jack needs to keep that in mind."

Elanor watched Jack as he set about stripping one of the long boat pulleys, as if to make sure that there would be a boat for him to take, and echoed Gibbs sigh,
"What is it about this particular ship Mr Gibbs? Don't tell me it's just because Jack has a fancy for her because its clear that its more than that. He'd not risk killing us all for that. So I think its about time you told me a little more of story of Jack and his Pearl, don't you?"