Chapter Eleven

In which all comes to a crisis

It had been no simple task to sneak his irritating prisoner ashore, but James had an even worse time silencing the bomb-ketches. Briefly, he'd considered being honest—simply admitting that he had a man on the inside who would shortly be liberating a great deal of Spanish wealth and that they had best be ready to collect it. But he had turned into a secretive, paranoid creature, and he'd forgotten how to be any other way. There were two James Norringtons now—the one who served His Majesty, and the one who screwed and schemed with Jack Sparrow. It was complicated, having two people in one body.

The Admiral was in camp, where James hoped he wouldn't notice the silence of the guns while he was having his fun with Wentworth. James went ashore. He passed Wentworth's tent and heard raised voices, then sought out Armstrong, who was with his sub-engineers playing piquet.

"Deal you in, Captain?" asked Armstrong, getting to his feet. James wasn't sure how he'd managed to incur Armstrong's awe—the man was old enough to be his father.

"Perhaps the next hand," said James.

"Sir," said one of the sub-engineers, "is it true the Admiral's sitting on soundings for the inner harbor?"

"Shut your mouth!" Armstrong barked. "He doesn't know what he's saying, Captain Norrington."

"The Admiral is doing all he can to support the Army," James replied slowly. "I am quite confident of that."

He let them deal him in, lost spectacularly, and wandered away. A little after two in the morning, there was a commotion on the edge of camp. He followed the stream of men to discover the source, hoping to find a pack of triumphant men with a cart, but something was wrong. A sergeant came toward him and he stopped the man.

"They've caught a pirate, sir," the sergeant explained. "He was making off with our prize, and he set free one of our prisoners."

James shut his eyes and drew a shuddering breath. He pushed through the crowd to see four soldiers marching Sparrow through the alleys between tents toward the General's headquarters.

"Ustedes me tienen equivocado con algun otro tipo," Sparrow was protesting as he struggled in their ungentle grip. "¡Quitame las manos de encima, hijos de puta!"

His squirming and complaining had little force; Sparrow knew he was on his beam-ends. James followed him into Wentworth's tent, where the General and the Admiral stopped their arguing to take in the spectacle of the protesting pirate.

"We caught him with a cartload of Spanish silver," said one of the soldiers holding him. "He says he's Spanish—or at least that's all he'll talk—but he looks like a pirate to us, sir."

Out of nowhere, Lowther appeared. "Admiral, sir," he said in his obsequious whine, "I know 'im. He's Jack Sparrow."

Sparrow made no attempt to argue, shrugging and giving a weak smile. "Hang him," said Vernon.

Now that the worst had happened, James was surprised that he didn't feel more. The pain when he'd thought Sparrow lost in battle had been far greater. Calm settled on him now. His very body seemed to grow colder, and his mind hardened into glass. So Sparrow had been captured, and the game was up. What now? his mind inquired coolly. Before he was even aware of it, he had made a decision.

"Admiral," he said, stepping forward, "do not hang this man. He is working for me."

Jack waited, furtively rubbing the skin under his manacles, while a familiar scene played out. The scene had never included Norrington in the role of his protector before, which made it interesting. Of course, Norrington had botched everything by admitting their connection. Some men had no head for this sort of thing.

"He is my spy, and he was attempting to steal those goods so that they would fall into our hands," Norrington blundered on. "He is working for England."

"If he's working for you, I don't see how either of you could possibly be working for England," growled Vernon. The man really was a pig, but Jack couldn't blame him for being suspicious. He knew exactly how this looked.

"Sir, this man has supplied intelligence that aided in the capture of Spanish ships, and his survey of the estuary helped us take the town of Chagres."

Not good, not good! Jack tried to get Norrington's attention, craning his neck and shaking his head vigorously, anything to keep him away from the subject of Chagres.

Vernon narrowed his eyes. "If I recall correctly, Lieutenant Lowther supplied us with the critical intelligence there."

Norrington hadn't seen Jack. "Intelligence he got from Sparrow! Ask him—Mr. Lowther, did Sparrow not give those soundings to you?"

"Sure," shrugged Lowther with an unpleasant grin. "I stole 'em from him, his bein' such a great friend to the Spanish an' all."

Only after he'd put the question to Lowther did James see Sparrow's frantic head-wagging, and he knew he'd made a fatal mistake. Of course Lowther wasn't going to reveal the ruse that had got him pardoned and insinuated into the Royal Navy. He thought suddenly of the marks on the lock of his desk drawer. "Someone close to Vernon," Sparrow had said. His stomach dropped to the floor. Of all the bad luck.

"You can confirm that this pirate is a Spanish spy?" Vernon was asking Lowther, who nodded and grinned. James half-expected him to loll his tongue out like a spaniel. "Very well—take him into custody, and Captain Norrington as well, on suspicion of—"

"Sir," James pleaded, "this man is lying. He himself is the spy. Please trust me—Sparrow helped us storm the Barradera, and he has sounded the inner harbor, although you refuse to—"

"What?" Wentworth got to his feet. "You told me no one had sounded that harbor, Admiral! You said—"

"Quiet." Vernon waved him away like a child that had spoken up. "I told you to forget about those soundings, Norrington."

Anger gripped James from head to toe. He was talking before he knew it. "It was our duty to support the Army, sir," he snarled, "our duty, and yet you ignored the information I gave you, didn't even look at it when you knew perfectly well—"

"I ignored those soundings because I recognized them for what they were," said Vernon: "false intelligence. And you," he went on, voice rising, "were the supplier of that intelligence. I believe that's treason."

These words should have struck him like a thunderbolt, and yet he kept talking. "So I'm to be accused of treason now?" He laughed shrilly. "To be sacrificed so that you may justify yourself, so that you may cover up your own tr—"

"Complete that sentence," said Vernon with deadly calm, "and I'll string you from the yardarm."

The words got through at last, and James clenched his teeth, his vision blurry with anger. He stared at the Admiral's crimson face and felt sick with mortification. Sparrow would never have lost his head like this.

"Admiral," said Wentworth, "is this true? Did you disregard this intelligence that could have put the lie to all your protestations?"

"As you might realize if you thought about it for a single moment," Vernon replied, "one can only learn if a chart is accurate by sailing the waters oneself, thereby putting one's ships at risk—"

"Risk? Risk?" Wentworth's pale lips trembled. "Two thirds of my troops are dead, Admiral! And you won't risk a ship or two to—"

"Very well," said Vernon. "Since you and Captain Norrington are so determined to put His Majesty's fleet in harm's way for the sake of verifying a bit of pernicious intelligence, we shall do exactly that. Norrington, you are hereby relieved of your command of the Dauntless and posted to the Galicia, with which you will bombard the city walls using those soundings you have such faith in. If this test is a failure, you shall stand accused of spying, along with your pirate friend. Is that clear?"

James nodded, feeling dizzy. "Aye, sir."

The hope James had allowed himself did not survive. In his cramped prison in the Princess Caroline's forepeak, he listened to his friends' reports. The Galicia was to be converted to a floating battery so that she could withstand heavy fire from the city and the fort; the Army was shipping their thirty-two-pounders, and the fleet's carpenters were reinforcing her and loading her down with sandbags until she sank nearly up to her lower gun-ports. Her draught was now so deep that she would not be able to pass over any of the inshore reefs, whether Sparrow's soundings were correct or not.

The outfitting of the ship took three days. James spent them sitting, pacing and occasionally sleeping in the tiny space. He spent a great deal of time worrying about Sparrow.

On the first day, Gillette visited him.

"Before anything, sir, let me just say that I believe you." Gillette's face was forbidding despite his words. "I have no idea what could have driven you to strike up with Sparrow, but I'm sure you had your reasons."

"Thank you." James knew when he was being patronized. "Where is Sparrow? Is he alive?"

"They have him on Ogle's flag under guard. I suspect they won't hang him as long as they think they can use him against you, so don't worry."

"Oh, no." James rolled his eyes. "Why would I worry?" He sat on the stool they'd furnished his cabin with. "Have you seen Vernon at all? Is he determined to prove me a traitor?"

"He's determined to prove that his guns couldn't have reached San Lázaro. Everyone knows those soundings exist now—but if you're a traitor, then they go away."

He frowned. "Please, as a favor, keep track of Sparrow. Don't let them bundle him overboard in a sack in the middle of the night."

"I'll do my best, sir."

Later, Forrest ducked into the cabin and sat down across from him. "You shall be in need of lieutenants aboard the Galicia," he said with his usual plainness. "Allow me to volunteer myself."

"That ship will draw the fire of every gun in the city, Mr. Forrest, and there will be no glory in it. Think clearly before you—"

"I have, sir. All of the men are volunteers. I shall be among them, one way or the other."

James swallowed the lump in his throat. "Very well."

On the third day, Rentone paid a visit.

"What I don't understand," he said, looking wretched, "is that you said you weren't sure you could trust that chart."

"Briefly I doubted the honesty of its source, yes," James admitted, "but my faith was restored."

"That's just it!" Rentone sighed. "To think it came from the very pirate in Portobello that the Admiral ordered shot on sight—I simply can't fathom—"

"I know it looks poor," James pleaded, "but consider what is happening. The Admiral has failed and is making a scapegoat of me, can't you see?"

"I just—don't believe Admiral Vernon would do such a thing."

"I know you worship the man for giving you a career, but I promise you," James cried, "he is not the sainted hero you think he is!"

"I want to say I understand what you did, sir," said Rentone miserably, "but—"

James sighed. "It's all right. You must do as your conscience tells you. I did as mine told me, no matter how it must look."

Rentone shook his head with a look of such disappointment James felt a twinge in his chest. "I do hope so, sir."

In the early morning of the fourth day, he was led up on deck into the brilliant sun. For a moment he stood blinking and shielding his eyes, and then Vernon's voice said, "Your barge awaits, Captain."

James watched from his boat as the grand Galicia loomed closer. She was indeed riding as low in the water as she possibly could—her draught would be at least six fathoms. His only choice would be to warp her through the narrow channel into the lagoon, if even that were possible.

On deck, he found the mood somewhat different. His officers saluted smartly and with pride, and his first lieutenant shook his hand. He answered the salutes gravely, then turned to Forrest. "Let us go below," he said, drawing Sparrow's chart from his coat, "and decide our approach. All hands up anchor!"

The Galicia sailed so badly that James didn't dare bring her about. They wallowed toward the lagoon's narrow entrance on the starboard tack, their leadsman in the forechains to warn them off the shallows, and their anchor a-cockbill, ready to be dropped at a second's notice.

As the city grew larger off the bow, the leadsman called out depths of nine fathoms, and James allowed himself some confidence—the wind was steady from the east, and if he kept close enough to the shore, he might avoid the reefs. He could see the breakers on them now, right where Sparrow said they would be. The tide was nearly in, and there might be enough water to float them through.

At nine o'clock, San Lázaro began to fire. It was still too soon to return fire, and James dreaded what would happen when they did. The carpenters had knocked the rear trucks off the gun carriages so that the guns could be elevated high enough, but the deck would absorb all the recoil, wrenching the ship's frame. She could fall apart the moment they were done with her; she was as expendable as her captain. He just hoped she would wait that long

As the soundings grew shallower, James ordered sails taken in and the kedge anchor rowed out so they could warp the ship through the mouth of the channel.

"Sparrow's chart gives six fathoms, sir," said Forrest, watching the boat bearing the anchor. "The ship draws six fathoms easily."

"I know, Mr. Forrest," James said. "But this is what has been asked of us. I see no other choice, do you?"

"The tide is mostly in," Forrest nodded. Together, they colluded in false hope.

At ten o'clock, there was a great rending crunch that threw everyone forward.

"Keep towing!" James shouted. "Send out the boats. We must drag her through."

The capstan ground away, pawls clanking with each stamp of the men, and the boats pulled hard on their tow lines. The ship inched forward. She was now close enough to the fort to receive its fire, and one shot shattered a boat and sent her crew to the bottom. The rest of the boats strained, pulling along with the capstan while the ship lurched forward with sickening crunches.

"Set topsails!" cried James, and the ship leaned yearningly toward the lagoon and scraped more loudly. By eleven, a gravelly whoosh sent them afloat again.

"Six feet in the well," the carpenter reported. "Don't know what she'll do once we start firing, let alone taking shots to the hull."

"Do your best," James sighed.

As soon as she entered the lagoon, the fort's fire began to batter her. A thirty-two-pound shot promptly demolished the main topmast and sent deadly splinters down. But now they were in range to begin their own assault. The heavy guns on the main deck fired in sequence from aft to fore—James didn't want to find out what would happen if he fired a simultaneous broadside—and all of the shots went home on the fort. Then several shots struck the hull one after the other, biting through the timber reinforcements the carpenters had installed. The ship shuddered.

They sailed under topsails until they were close enough to reach the city walls, then dropped anchor. The fire from the fort, and now from the city, was growing hotter. James stayed on the quarterdeck and watched as the side of his ship was destroyed one shot at a time—within two hours, three guns were dismounted and most of the gun crews had fallen and been replaced. The lower decks were firing on the city, but through his spyglass, he could see they were doing very little good.

Hours ground by, and James struggled to keep from slipping into hopelessness. The decks grew bloody, and at last, he went down to join the thinning gun crews. Aiming, training, touching off, pushing bodies aside, helping the wounded below—he was used to the rhythm of battle, but never one so futile.

Around three o'clock, he heard someone shout, "Make way for the lieutenant!" and turned to see Forrest's body carried between two seamen.

"No," he said, and staggered toward them, forgetting his gun. It was not fair, not fair, and duty disappeared into his anger at Vernon and Wentworth and all the fools who played with men's lives.

Forrest blinked up at him. "Splinter wound," he gasped. "Bloody stupid…"

"Get him below," James barked at the seamen.

"The surgeon's dead!" shouted a man at the bottom of the ladder. "Shots're coming through the hull below!"

"Sir!" called the carpenter. "We've taken twenty shot between wind and water, there's nine feet in the well and rising, and we've no men left to work the pumps."

James gazed around the bloody deck at the despairing faces of his men, all loyal men who were only there because they trusted him. Would Beauclerk have stayed until they were spent to the last man? Was it cowardice, what he was about to do, or was it merely sane?

He called for the signal midshipman. "Signal to flag," he ordered: "Unequal to the contest." Then he returned to his gun.

"Sir!" shouted the boy a few minutes later. "Flag signals to fall off!"

James jogged up to the quarterdeck. "Slip the cable! Set topsails!"

"Her seams are opening!" called the carpenter.

"Blast. Come on, then, get us into those shallows! Run us aground!"

Within moments of setting her sails, the tide helped the ship back onto the sandbar she'd struggled so hard to get over. This time, she crunched to a halt and settled as her timbers pulled apart.

"Lower the boats!"

The crew was so decimated that they could all fit into the barge, the cutter and the pinnace. They rowed with heads down as the fort's parting shots sailed over them, erupting off their bows. James plied his own oar, Forrest lying against him, breathing shallowly.

It took half an hour to row across the harbor, the men exhausted from their toil and their wounds. Once they'd hooked onto the flagship, James hauled himself and Forrest up the side and stumbled onto the deck, Forrest's arm slung over his shoulder, where he found Vernon's stout figure in the crowd. "You have murdered my men, sir," he said, and fell heavily to his knees under Forrest's weight. "You have knowingly—"

"Captain Norrington," said Vernon, "I hereby accuse you of conspiring with the enemy. Master-at-arms, put this man below."

"They shall hear of this in London," James called as two Marines seized him.

"Oh, I expect they will." Vernon smiled. "If you were that ambitious, Norrington, you should have made friends with me. Now you'll likely be shot. Good day."

The Marines pushed James down the ladder into the depths of the ship.

For hours, he sat in the dripping dark. Some part of him understood that it was over, but another part replayed conversations and sifted through evidence and tried to piece together a defense. Strangely, it was Sparrow's voice telling him to give it up and brace himself for what was ahead. Sparrow clung so savagely to life, and yet he accepted his fate with a grace that eluded James. He put his head between his knees and prayed that Sparrow still lived.

The cabin door creaked open, and a lantern blinded him.

A voice spoke out of the glare. "I've gathered a bit more information since last we talked," said Vernon. "We know, for instance, about the false orders you gave to the captains of the bomb-ketches. We know you supplied us with agents to mislead our Infantry columns in the dark. We know that a copy of your signal book turned up in Spanish hands. We know that you aided in Captain Elizagaray's escape. Shall I go on?"

"The goods from the customs-house were meant for England," James said, appalled at how weak he sounded. "The other things—"

"I'm not interested in your excuses," Vernon snarled. "I am already convinced of your guilt. What I want to know is, what else have you given the Spanish?"

"Nothing." James shook his head and swallowed. "I am not a spy."

Behind the light, Vernon sighed. "I was hoping not to have to do this. Seaman?"

A blow out of the dark struck his cheek and knocked his head around. He pulled in a long, stunned breath, and turned back toward the light.

"I have given them nothing," he said.

A blow to the other side of his face cracked his head against the ship's side.

"Why are you persisting, Norrington?" Vernon's face was gradually coalescing into a double image as James's eyes adjusted. "I have plenty of time to devote to this."

"I have not betrayed England," James said.

A burly boatswain's mate materialized out of the dark and smacked him hard across the mouth. His lips tore on his teeth and the taste of blood bloomed in his mouth.

"You have compromised England and sabotaged this expedition," hissed Vernon, "and I will find out how, if only so I may tell my countrymen why I have failed them. Seaman?"

And so it went. He thought, right around the time the man broke his ribs, that he was lucky the Navy wasn't celebrated for imagination. He could endure this violence because he had already endured it. They could not hurt him with surprise.

Vernon left, and in the absence of light, he lost track of time. He seemed to be drifting down a sluggish flood of time as he lay with his face against the rising, falling deck, waiting for the men to return and ask him questions it did him no good to answer.

They came again. "For the last time: what information about British forces did you convey to the Spanish, by yourself or through your agent?"

James looked at the man, who was actually three men drawing apart and closing back into one, and tried to remember the name that went with the face. "Nothing," he said, his swollen lips struggling to form the sounds. "I conveyed nothing."

"Very well. Seaman?"

A blow to the back of his neck sent him down. He knelt, stunned, as the planks under his knees went in and out of focus. Then another blow drove him face-first into the deck. He felt warm trickles down his brow. The pain no longer had a location; it seemed to be everywhere at once, an embracing shell that dulled sound and shut out the world. Except when the world violently intruded.

Abruptly he was looking at the beams. The man whose boot had struck his chin leaned over him. The face blurred and resolved and blurred again.

"Quit this nonsense, Norrington."

He bared his teeth. He was pretty sure he had fewer than he once had.

"The pirate has already confessed. He's given you up—there's no reason to hold out."

This information might have meant something once upon a time. Now, he didn't believe it and he didn't not believe it. He just didn't care.

"I have nothing to say." His tongue was swollen in his mouth. "I am innocent."

"As you wish. Seaman?"

A blow to his chest, a flare of agony, and then nothing.

The world was still rocking when he awoke, but he was somewhere different, bigger. The part of the hold accommodated for prisoners, perhaps. His limbs were numb and his chest felt squeezed between two crushing weights, yet for all of that, his mind was strangely clear.

He heard a wet cough. It was familiar.

"Sparrow," he said, lips rubbing weakly in the dirt.

"Aye." Another cough. It was some distance away, echoing in the vast hold.

"I thought you might be dead," said James.

"Nope." The reply would have been cheerful if it hadn't been so strained. "They did their best, but Captain Jack Sparrow endured."

For a minute, he allowed his relief at this one little gift from fortune to warm his aching body. "You realize," he said, wondering why he was trying to say so many words at once, "that they'll be hoping for us to say something interesting to each other."

"I had worked that out." Sparrow's sarcasm was borne up only by habit.

"So don't." His face hurt, but talking helped somehow.

"Can't even remember what they wanted me to say." Sparrow sounded deeply, killingly tired.

"Me neither. All the better." James coughed. Then his chest spasmed in a flurry of ugly coughs, and by the end he was gagging and spitting, pushing up on his hands and falling, then gasping on his side, tears running down his face.

"Blimey," said Sparrow softly.

"Where the hell are you?" His voice was a gruesome rasp.

"I'm by the side." A rustle. "Gimme a moment." Some weak dragging sounds, interspersed with grunts.

"I don't know about you, Sparrow," said James, "but I think I'm going to die."

"I admit—" Sparrow cursed and the dragging stopped. Then it started again. "I admit it doesn't sound good."

"I'm not looking forward to it." James rolled back onto his stomach. "It's going to hurt, drowning in my own blood."

"Cross that bridge when you come to it, mate." More dragging. "Take it from me: it's never over till it's over. And even then, you never know." His voice was now close.

James reached out and his fingers found metal. Then other fingers found his on the bars.

"There you are," whispered Sparrow in triumph, breathing hard.

"Yes. Unfortunately."

"How's your face? They get your nose? Teeth?"

"I don't really want to know. Can't feel it anyway. You?"

"The nose'll never point north again. The teeth I can live without. Jaw seems all right else I couldn't be talkin'. The rest is all one great bruise."

"I can't see. Can you?"

"Not really."

James sighed. "I suppose you think this is all my fault."

"Well, technically, it is. Strictly speaking. From an objective point of view." A sigh. "But subjectively, it could happen to anyone. Was my poor sense to get mixed up with such bad company."

James laughed, which ended in a cough. "I suppose I deserve that."


The fingers squeezed a little.

"Sparrow, I'm sorry."

"Don't get maudlin. It's Admiral Vernon's doin', not yours."

"I should never have involved you."

"Stop it. I will have no man feel sorry for himself on my behalf. It's unmanning—for both of us."

"Do you think me a fool?"

"'Course not. Well, not a big one."

"Sparrow, do you regret it? Knowing me? Surely you never imagined this mess."

"Gov'nor," said Sparrow, "regrets are for men who fear life. Besides," he added, "I'd have counted meself blessed to know you anyway, lovely fool that you are."

James sighed, his chest heavy and burning, his head full of darkness. "Such a fool I am…"

"There, there, darling. It'll work out. Don't go to sleep, now. Commodore!"

James jerked up with a murmur, then lay his head back down. His chest didn't hurt as much.

"Come, now. Did I ever tell you about the time I bought an island for a tub of salt fish? Stay awake, now."

Someone was speaking, but they were like voices underwater. He sank, his lungs heavy and wet, as the last of the light disappeared.

"Gov'nor! Norrington! Stay awake, now…Norrington?"

The fleet had left the noxious coast of the Spanish Main behind to spread their sails across brilliant water laced with torn white spray. Sails stretched from horizon to horizon, all heeling gently as the May breeze drew them toward Jamaica.

Lieutenant Forrest paced the lee side of the quarterdeck while he waited for Captain Gillette to finish below. When Gillette sprang up the companionway with troubled eyes and a drawn face, Forrest recognized the vector of a rumor he very much wanted to intercept.

As it happened, he didn't have to. Gillette came and leaned on the rail beside him.

"Well, sir?" said Forrest. "What have you heard?"

"He's dead," said Gillette.

Forrest shook his head. "They can't do that—even Admiral Vernon can't—"

"They say he hanged himself," Gillette interjected, "rather than give himself up."

"I don't believe it," said Forrest flatly.

"It's only a rumor," Gillette said. "But rumors are often more trustworthy than what the Admiral tells us."

Past the rail, the mottled green and sapphire water slid into the shadows of the sails. Neither man could bring himself to speak.

There is a certain peace in death, no matter how violent the end. Nothing matters; all is one. And the beds are very, very comfortable.

Someone was saying his name, repeatedly. It was annoying.

"…James! Do you know where you are?"

He blinked. Panes of yellow light surrounded him, and his body was borne up on an aether-soft cloud. He could smell coffee. "In a bed, in a room?" He blinked again. "How the hell should I know?"

"Thank God." A blurry pink shape resolved into Governor Swann. "How do you feel?"

"Like I've been beaten," said James.

"Heavens." Swann mopped his brow. "We had no hope for you. You were bleeding in your lungs, and the fever…you were raving…"

"Oh God." He thought of Sparrow. "What did I say?"

"You were giving orders, mostly. Run out the guns! Fire on the uproll!"

Thank God. "Where is Sparrow?"

"Oh, dear." Swann winced. "I'm afraid he was executed earlier this morning."

Cold washed over him.

"I'm sorry," Swann was saying, "I know he would have been a valuable witness, but I thought it best to let the Admiral have his way…James, what are you doing?"

He had tumbled out of bed and was crawling on the cold floor to find his clothes. His chest was on fire and he missed the embracing comfort of the bed, but he needed his clothes. His breeches and stockings were folded over a chair. He seized them and pulled them on.

Swann hovered behind him. "You mustn't get up, James, you're still in a great deal of danger."

"You are free to detain me with force," he snapped, hunting for a waistcoat. There was none to be found. Nor were there shoes. He headed for the door in his shirt and smallclothes.

Swann ran to keep up, but didn't stay him. "If you wish to speak to the Admiral about this, you can wait until you've healed a bit…James, I don't see what you hope to accomplish by this…good heavens, you're not even dressed!"

James burst out the front door of the mansion with the Governor trailing after him. "Take this, at least!" Swann cried, and threw his coat over James's shoulders.

It was a long walk to the fort, and by the time he got there, he was limping, the feet of his stockings stained with blood. He pushed past the guards at the entrance and marched out onto the parade ground, where the scaffold still stood.

Upon which several men were still standing. One of whom was Sparrow.

"Governor!" James cried. "Halt that execution at once."

"I'm really not certain whether…"

"Governor Swann!" James snarled. "Make—them—stop!"

"Admiral Vernon," called Swann, "this execution has been stayed. I'm turning the matter over to the Vice-Admiralty court. You shall have it in writing this afternoon. In the meantime, please return the prisoner to his cell."

Sparrow's face was a bruised mess, but he was upright. He was looking at James with hungry joy. James drank in the sight of him for a moment before staggering against Swann, hands tingling and ears roaring. When he found Sparrow's eyes again, they were full of concern.

"You must make them release him," James said, steadying himself on Swann's shoulder.

"Are you mad?" Swann cried. "He is accused of spying, not to mention the crimes of which he's already been sentenced to hang for—"

"He's not a spy," James said. "Well, he is, but for us—me. He gave us soundings for Cartagena's inner harbor—that's why Vernon wants us silenced, he refused to use them—"

"All right, all right. Can you prove any of this?"

"I—don't know, I—"

"Never mind. Come on, then, Sparrow's safe for now. Back to bed with you…"

"Vernon!" James shouted, sagging into the arms of two Marines. "I'll have satisfaction." Then he fainted properly.

When he woke in the early evening, Elizabeth was sitting beside his bed. He couldn't see her face—the lavender twilight behind her head cast her features in darkness. But he got the feeling she was smiling.

He allowed her to pour a few spoonfuls of broth down his throat before sinking back into his pillow. "Listen to me carefully," he said.

She bent forward, taking his hand.

"Through your father's grace, our mutual friend has been granted a hearing. He'll likely be moved from Fort Charles to Bridewell Prison to await his trial, which will be in no more than a week." He gazed at her. "I believe we understand one another?"

She nodded.

James saw quite a bit of Elizabeth and her father over the next few days. Even Turner came to visit.

"I underestimated you," said Turner awkwardly, perched on a stool.

"It seems I am forever to be judged on the basis of my attitude toward Sparrow," James muttered. He struggled with the pillow at his back and gave up in frustration. "All of you must be aware that I am a man in my own right? With wholly un-Sparrow-related thoughts and opinions?"

Turner looked guilty. "I didn't mean it unkindly, Commodore."

"And I'm not a commodore any longer. For heaven's sake, get it right." James shifted around irritably. "I apologize, Mr. Turner. I am simply tired of looking at the pattern on those curtains."

"You know," said Turner, sensing a need for his own apology, "I've arranged escapes before."

James smiled. "Let's hope this one is more successful than the last."

Downstairs, two Marines stopped them.

"Sorry, Commodore," said the fat one. "Admiral's orders."

"Oh, but he's given the Governor his parole," said Turner. "He's free to go where he likes as long as he doesn't leave town."

"Ah, but it's the Admiral what says he's got to stay put," said the skinny one.

The fat one shook his head. "Governor trumps Admiral, I'd think."

The skinny one looked shocked. "You've got it backwards. Admiral definitely trumps Governor."

"You're a pillock," said the fat one.

"We'll be going, then," said Turner, leading James out the door.

"Right, then." The skinny Marine spun around. "Oi!"

Turner helped James back to his little townhouse, where he'd not set foot in more than four months. His steward and valet greeted him and helped him upstairs.

Once the servants had left them alone, Turner said, "They're moving Jack on Thursday."

James nodded. Nothing else needed to be said.

A few days later, Gillette brought him the news of Sparrow's escape. His breathing, which still hadn't recovered, grew a little easier.

7 June, 1741

In its finer moments, naval justice was capable of great humanity, but more often, it was a primitive affair. The average sea-officer sitting on a court-martial was at home in the teeth of a Channel gale but knew next to nothing of the law. The only man in the room required to know anything at all was the Deputy Judge Advocate, who in this case was James's old secretary, Mr. Sandys—a man whose duties around Port Royal included everything from diplomacy to masonry and barbering. He was even known to extract the occasional tooth. His legal expertise, alas, was on par with his dentistry—akin to a pair of tongs, a bottle of brandy and three seamen beating on copper pots in the patient's ear. If the men judging James were intelligent and unbiased, this would serve well enough, like most naval improvisation at sea. If they weren't, he was lost.

At the head of the table beneath the stern windows of the Princess Caroline's stateroom, Rear-Admiral Ogle frowned in shadow against the brilliant morning light, while the senior captains of the squadron sat rigidly beside him, mopping their foreheads in the June heat. From the prosecutor's seat, Vernon's hot scowl pressed on James. Nearby, Sandys rustled his papers as he read out the warrants, charges, and orders for assembling the court, then administered the oath, over and over, that always ended in "so help you God."

James's neck prickled with sweat. For the last fortnight, he had thought of nothing but his defense, and now that the day had arrived, he had remarkably little to show for it. Without Sparrow to corroborate his story, he could not prove his innocence; the best he could hope to do was establish a reasonable doubt. All depended on his judges, and how ready they were to be convinced.

The cabin filled with shuffles and murmurs as all of the witnesses exept the first were ushered out, and then Vernon was on his feet, addressing Captain Gillette.

"…and when the defendant informed you of this Spanish convoy he intended to ambush in the Mona Passage, did he tell you how he'd learned of it?"

Gillette's pale brows scrunched as he fixed his eyes somewhere past Vernon. "He said he'd received intelligence from an—an undisclosable source."

"And tell me," said Vernon, narrowing his eyes, "were there any incidents once the Spanish prizes had been secured, incidents that might have caused some of the valuables on those prizes to go missing?"

"Well"—Gillette looked suddenly ill—"there was an accident when we were unloading the prize that had run aground—a boom broke as we were lowering a chest of silver into a boat…"

"Yes? And?"

Gillette sighed. "I suggested that we attempt to salvage it, but Captain Norrington was concerned about making the rendezvous with the squadron, and so we left it."

"Yes." Vernon turned to the court. "He left it as payment for his pirate accomplice. He violated the seventh Article of War and despoiled a prize before it could be condemned, depriving the King of his rightful share."

"Admiral," said Sandys testily, "these are not among the charges you have brought against the prisoner."

Vernon nodded. "I may not be able to prove that the defendant intended that silver for his friend. The evidence in this matter, taken in isolation, is far too thin." He spread his arms in a self-conscious rhetorical gesture. "I mean instead to illustrate a pattern of circumstantial facts that can only be explained one way: by the accused's treachery."

At the head of the table, Ogle nodded. "Captain Norrington, have you any questions for Captain Gillette that might help clarify your actions in this matter?"

James looked down. "I do not."

Vernon turned his bland smile on the court. "Very well. Mr. Sandys, the next witness, if you please…"

If Gillette had seemed nervous, Forrest looked downright mutinous as he took his seat, his dark upper lip gleaming with sweat, his thick brows knotted together.

"…And where did Captain Norrington go on these occasions? Did he tell you?"

"He said he feared for the life of a man who had been acting as his spy, sir, and he'd gone to aid him."

"Quite. How long was he gone, would you say?"

"I don't rightly recall."

"Think, Mr. Forrest."

The court listened while Vernon extracted the details of those last awful days at Cartagena, including Don Pedro's mysterious escape. Once again, James found himself with no questions for Forrest when his chance for cross-examination came. He could not deny that Sparrow had worked for him. All he could do was repeat that he had not betrayed England; he could offer no positive proof.

Once Forrest had left the cabin, Ogle himself made his way to the witness's chair and allowed Sandys to swear him in.

"Were you aware that Captain Norrington was working with a secret source?" asked Vernon.

"I was," said Ogle, "but this is rather common. In the West Indies, we often consult pirates and other questionable characters with an intimate knowledge of the area. You yourself gave Captain Norrington permission to use an agent without identifying the man, and continued to allow it. Admiral"—he leaned forward—"the accused is not on trial for using secret sources or even for engaging the services of a pirate. He is on trial for knowingly conveying false intelligence."

Vernon pursed his lips. "Just so. Rear-Admiral, do you recall the letter that the prisoner delivered to us on the eve of our departure for Cartagena, supposedly from Don Francisco Martinez de Retez, regarding the Marquis d'Antin's ailing fleet?"

"I do."

"Well, I've shown it to several diplomats, whose sworn affidavits I can produce, who all agree that Don Francisco was imprisoned in Spain at the time this letter was written. It is, therefore, a fake."

James shut his eyes. Of course—Sparrow had wanted the British to go to Havana so badly. Damn and blast the man.

"Of course," Vernon continued, "the contents of the letter turned out to be true. Tell me, what would the consequences have been they been false?"

"Well," Ogle shrugged, "had the letter falsely told us the French were gone and we had believed it without verifying it, then it would have meant disaster for the fleet. We'd have been caught between two fleets and utterly annihilated, and Jamaica lost."

"Yet Captain Norrington happily passed on this unreliable piece of intelligence knowing full well the consequences if it were wrong."

"Like I said, we'd never have trusted it without corroborating—"

"Yes, yes. But consider the pattern here. He knew he was dealing with a wicked, self-interested criminal and yet took the man's word at face value. The soundings of the inner harbor—were they correct?"

"Difficult to say," said Ogle. "The ship ran aground, certainly, but it was under heavy fire and other mitigating factors—"

"The ship ran aground." Vernon turned a glare on the court. "The precise scenario against which soundings are meant to guard. Gentlemen, I think we can safely assume the soundings were false, just like that letter."

"But sir," said one of the younger post-captains on the court, "surely you must prove to us that Captain Norrington knowingly deceived you."

"There is a fine line between knowing deception and criminal negligence. They amount to the same because they result in the same."

The young captain nodded and looked down.

"The prosecution calls Lieutenant Lowther," said Sandys.

"Mr. Lowther," Vernon said, "tell us what you know of Jack Sparrow."

The tale that Lowther spun was worthy of Sparrow himself. A lifelong servant of the King of Spain, was Sparrow, and a crusader for the Catholic faith. He'd been using James from the start, apparently, and together they'd conspired with Don Blas to destroy the English fleet. No one who had spent more than five minutes around Sparrow would have believed it, of course; to think of Sparrow owing allegiance to any nation was absurd. But none of the men on the court knew that. And once again, James could prove nothing.

It was time to present his defense. "Honorable sirs," he said, "I do not deny that I collaborated with Jack Sparrow. But I submit to you that I did so for England's benefit; that Sparrow's activities served England and not Spain; and that Mr. Lowther has told these lies to conceal his own treachery." With a feeling of creeping futility, he told his version of events—leaving out the manner in which he and Sparrow had first come to cooperate, but detailing the rest, down to their disastrous plan to loot the customs-house.

"Do you have any means of proving this?" asked Ogle. "Is there anyone at all who can confirm it?"

"No," James admitted, "but I hope the court will observe that Lieutenant Lowther's story is equally unsupported—"

"Yet a great deal more plausible," said Vernon. "Really, Norrington, you might as well confess if you can give no evidence apart from your word."

The court watched him serenely, and for one mad moment, he nearly gave in—a senseless impulse toward suicide like the one he'd once felt looking over a precipice into the sea. Vernon's hostile glare bore into him, and the impulse passed. "I shall do nothing of the sort," he said.

"Rear-Admiral Ogle!" cried a voice from the back of the cabin. "Make way, please. I bring a witness for the defense."

The crowd parted and Governor Swann appeared, grey curls flying as he dragged Jack Sparrow forward by the wrist.

James stopped himself from crying out. All of their scheming to get Sparrow free, it had all been for nothing; the despair he hadn't felt when they'd first been arrested came crashing down now. Had Sparrow come here willingly? Surely he was too clever for that. Swann had caught him somehow, damn the well-intentioned old fool.

"Governor," said Vernon coldly, regarding Sparrow as though he were a bit of grease staining his cuff, "you cannot expect us to accept the testimony of such an infamous witness. We have standards, you know. I challenge this man's credibility, propter delictum."

Sparrow mouthed the words propter delictum slowly to himself, but Swann was busy producing a document from his coat pocket. "As the King's representative in these colonies, I have issued Captain Sparrow a full pardon," he said, sliding the paper under Mr. Sandys's nose. "His criminal status can no longer exclude him."

Ogle's brow had darkened. "Governor, we must discuss the legality of this turn of events," he growled. "A man's life hangs in the balance here; I will permit no ambiguities. Clear the court, if you please."

The sweltering stateroom emptied its spectators, witnesses and prisoner onto the main deck. Once free, the crowd burst into excited chatter. James leaned against the rail with the master-at-arms hovering close by and ignored it, letting the breeze cool his sweating neck. Across the deck, Sparrow stuck close to the Governor and the piece of paper that was all that stood between him and the instant carriage of justice. There was no way they could speak to each other. James settled for catching his eye and asked silently, how?

Sparrow replied with a complicated sequence of charades—arm-waving, hand-flapping, a sort of truncated hornpipe—and mouthed what appeared to be Elizabeth. (James doubted he was saying a list of pets or a lizard bed, but with Sparrow, you could never discount anything.) James returned his grin wearily. So that wonderful woman and her wonderful father had conspired, this time on his behalf. His spirits lifted.

A clerk emerged from the stateroom to announce that the court would resume. Inside, Ogle wiped his brow and tugged his wilting cravat. "The testimony of the pirate Jack Sparrow will be admitted," he said with a dubious sigh. "Captain Norrington? Proceed."

James took a breath and met Sparrow's eyes. Even now, with the evidence before him, he could barely believe it. Sparrow had returned—not for himself, not for treasure or to get back his precious ship, but for James. It was against all reason, but here it was. Sparrow's black eyes glittered as he waited patiently for James to begin.

"Captain Sparrow," said James, his mouth suddenly dry, "please tell the court how our association first began."

"Well, your honors," said Sparrow, "we were enemies at first, I'll admit. But the Commodore wanted to fight the Spanish, and to do it, he needed something he didn't possess: dishonesty…"

And so Sparrow narrated the whole tale from beginning to end, give or take a few details (excluding, mercifully, his escape from Portobello) and for once—for one strange moment in an otherwise dishonest life—the majority of it was true.

"Well," said Ogle at last, "it appears we are at an impasse. We have heard two matching versions of your story, Captain Norrington, but we have still not got at the core of the question: whether or not the intelligence you conveyed was false. Everything depends on the veracity of those harbor soundings, it would seem. Can either you or Admiral Vernon produce a single scrap of concrete evidence on the matter?"

"I believe I can," said James, feeling calm for the first time all day. "If you please, gentlemen, I call Captain Rentone to witness."

Rentone sweated and fidgeted before the court, looking terribly young and lost. "I could make no sense of that chart at the time," he admitted in reply to James's query. "You said you weren't sure of it yourself. But later you told me you were convinced it had come from an honest source."

"Ah," said Vernon nastily, "so the welfare of the fleet depends entirely on whether Captain Norrington trusts his pirate friend not. Don't you see? We cannot be subject to the whims of one man's judgment!"

"Silence, please," said Ogle. "Continue, Captain Rentone."

The young man cast a miserable glance toward Vernon as he said, "I owe everything to the Admiral, and I may very well be driving myself aground here. But I also know that Captain Norrington did nothing wrong. Sirs, if you'll permit me"—he opened a portfolio and took out a sheaf of papers—"I consulted the accounts of Baron de Pointis's attack on Cartagena in '97, and together with testimony from Spanish deserters and my own observation of the Galicia's final voyage, I've managed to reconstruct this survey of the harbor bottom…"

The court's eyebrows climbed to their wigs. While Rentone spoke, his voice growing more confident as he engrossed himself in hydrography, James thought of Sparrow. As soon as the court had dismissed him, he had fled from the cabin with one last wink for James, and hopefully by now, he was far away. A Navy flagship was no place for him, protected by nothing but a pardon of dubious legitimacy. James wondered with a stab if he would ever see Sparrow again.

The sun dropped toward the sea, and at last the court cleared for deliberation. In a small, stuffy cabin, James sat with his head leaned on his hand, trying to rid his mind of all thoughts. It was out of his control now; but time passed with excruciating slowness. Finally he was called, and he stepped back into the stateroom where the court waited for him solemnly, heads covered. His sword lay before them on the table—the hilt toward him. Rear-Admiral Ogle began to speak.

"…and having maturely and deliberately considered the whole, the court is of opinion that the charge of spying and conveying false intelligence against Captain James Norrington is not proved." Ogle looked up. "We do, however, formally reprimand you for your failure to disclose your source of intelligence. Your choice of Jack Sparrow was foolish in the extreme, but we could have forgiven it if you had confided in your commanding officer. That you did not do so because you knew the Admiral would object is what deserves our censure." Ogle peered sternly over his papers. "You have a bright career to look forward to, Captain Norrington, but it is dimmed by what you have done. You shall have to work hard to remove this tarnish. You'd best get started. Well," he added, clearing his throat, "now that that's taken care of—" He passed James a letter. "Here are your orders."

James accepted them with a trembling hand. The words were almost too blurred to read, but he made out one, at least: Dauntless.

He buckled on his sword as the court and audience filed out. Vernon remained behind, radiating malignancy, and then Gillette was at James's side. "Well, Admiral?" he said, taking James's arm. "The court has spoken. It's not too late for an apology."

"Forget it," growled Vernon.

"Very well, then. Plumb Point, tomorrow at dawn. Everything is arranged."

Above where the men held the stamping horses, where Gillette watched white-faced and Ogle towered motionless as a shadow, the mountains of Jamaica rose into the haze, from their green feet to their cloudy blue heads. To James's right was nothing but the gleaming sapphire of the Caribbean. His feet sank in the wet sand.

"Ten paces!" shouted Ogle. "One…two…"

As James walked, his anger drained out of him, filling his footprints. He had dreamed so often of killing Vernon, but now it seemed like a tremendous waste of both their lives—for his own would certainly be over as well should he put a bullet in the Admiral's breast. Vernon had controlled him enough in life—he couldn't allow the man to haunt him in death as well. Five paces, six…uncertainty gripped him, and uncertainty in a duel was deadly. He had three more paces to decide.

"Fire!" cried Ogle, and James spun around with pistol raised. The muzzle fell on Vernon, whose bulk made a broad target, and James held it there for moment before sliding it to the left.

As he squeezed the trigger, his side burst into splinters of pain, and he staggered and went to his knees. At the other end of the beach, Vernon bent over clutching his hand. James pitched forward, clutching his side, and then Gillette's arms were around him. The following minutes were full of sound without sight, abrupt changes of altitude, hoof beats, and raised voices. When he finally lifted his eyelids, a doctor sat at his bedside.

"Good news…ribs…ball bounced right off, by Jove…lucky chap…"

The doctor opened James's mouth and placed a few drops on his tongue, then went away. James drifted down a warm indigo hour, the pain diminished to a tickle, his body numb and his mind unmoored. The sheets were cool, the air was sweet. His eyes closed. Something musical, like little bells, made him smile.

"I do not understand you," said a voice. "We go to all that trouble to preserve your life, an' you do your best to toss it away again."

His smile widened. "Sparrow."

The bed lurched under the man's weight. Then cool fingers touched his forehead. "Is that it, then? Is the whole bloody rotten business well an' truly done with?"

"I think so." James opened his eyes to find the beloved face, which was less cross than the voice had led him to expect. "Though Vernon will do his best to destroy me in other ways."

"I'd better not have to do this again," sniffed Sparrow. "I'm not built for bedside vigils. They do not display me to my best advantage."

"Yes, they do." James reached out to find Sparrow's hand. "Thank you for returning. I think they would have convicted me without your testimony."

Lips touched James's temple. "I like you like this, mate. We should get you all whacked up on laudanum more often. Though I'm told it's no great aid to performance…"

"I should think not. I can't feel a thing." James rolled his head so that it fit beneath Sparrow's chin. "How long will you stay?"

"Well—" Sparrow squirmed. "My ship's still out there. Your fleet leaves for Cuba soon an' I plan to be in attendance."

"I shall miss you," said James sleepily, "but you deserve to have her back."

"Here, now," said Sparrow with a smile, "surely you'll join your comrades when you're able."

"I'm leaving for the Mediterranean," James sighed. "Presuming I recover, which the doctor says I shall, I can expect to join Mathews in the Toulon blockade."

"Can you, now." Sparrow stiffened. "You'll be based in Port Mahon, aye? Nice weather there. Pretty girls. Birthplace of mayonnaise, you know."


There was a sigh. "It's a wide ocean, Gov'nor. But as long as you and I are both free upon it, it needn't stand between us."

James smiled. "You have been known to do the impossible."

A kiss touched James's mouth. "It is, in fact, my specialty."

16 July, 1741

James had regained his Dauntless, but lost his first lieutenant, which diluted his joy even though the loss was for the best of reasons—Forrest had advanced to his own command. James's new first was old and irritable and they had already quarreled once—if a sharp retort and a threat followed by silence could be considered a quarrel. James left him preparing the Dauntless for sea while he put his affairs in order. His solicitor would sell his house, and the rest of his assets were in London, so it was a short list of errands. He bid an affectionate farewell to the Governor, who had done no less than save his life, and then prepared for his final visit to Elizabeth. He wasn't certain he could say goodbye to her without making a fool of himself, so he approached her home with trepidation.

"I thought you'd be glad to get out of the Caribbean," she teased, settling them both on the garden bench. "You're always complaining about how uncivilized it is here."

"One may form sentimental attachments even to the most odious of circumstances," he replied, smiling. "If I didn't share that tendency, why, I'd never have become a sailor."

Elizabeth clasped his arm. "I wish you didn't have to go."

He smiled tightly, unable to reply.

"I don't suppose you—"

"I trust you've not heard—"

They stared at each other. Then Elizabeth said, "You've had no word from Jack, then?"

He laughed. "And I take it he's sent none to you."

"That doesn't mean much. It's out of sight, out of mind for Jack—I doubt he ever thinks of either of us."

She didn't know the full extent of James's attachment to Sparrow, but her words made his heart clench anyway.

"James—" Elizabeth turned to him. "I think you're under a false impression." She bowed her head. "I think you believe that all my respect for you depended on Jack—how you let him escape, how you became his friend. I want you to know it's not true."

He couldn't look at her. "Your attitude toward me certainly seemed to change once I—"

"James." She clutched his hand. "You've always had my affection and respect. Jack never had anything to do with it."

He said goodbye and excused himself quickly. Drawing deep breaths and wiping his eyes as he walked toward the waterfront, he let the little town of Port Royal fall away, let his memories of it recede into their proper distance, and set his mind on his empty blue destination.

On the quay, his melancholy was interrupted by a familiar figure climbing out of a barge.

"Captain Rentone!" James hurried forward to shake the man's hand. "My word—what's the matter?"

"Oh, sir." Rentone looked ready to burst into tears. "I am ruined, ruined."

"Come now." James took him by the shoulder. "What's this about, then?"

"You see—" Rentone looked heavenward. "I took a prize—but I lost it!"

"Lost it? How?"

"We were cruising off Santiago de Cuba, and out comes a funny sort of antique Spanish bark with a black hull."

James's heart paused.

"We took her quite easily," Rentone continued. "She struck without much of a fight, being so outgunned. I sent a prize-crew across, and we turned our heads toward Port Royal—but in the morning, why, she was gone! I thought maybe her crew had overpowered ours—but later, we ran across both crews bobbing along in boats. None of them could make head or tail of what happened."

James's heart swelled. "I wouldn't worry, Rentone," he said. "You've merely joined an elite brotherhood, I'm afraid."

Rentone gazed at him miserably. "What's that?"

"Men who have lost a ship to Captain Jack Sparrow."

"Oh." The young man hung his head. After a moment, he smiled. "I see."

Once he'd said farewell to Rentone, James headed for his ship. He didn't look back at Port Royal, where for a brief time he'd ruled with near omnipotence, back when he'd been slightly less wise. The shadow of the Dauntless engulfed his barge, and then he was piped aboard, his officers saluting him, the ship's company all at attention. As he saluted the quarterdeck and then climbed to his sovereign seat on the weather side, the people gave him three cheers, then returned to the organized chaos of fitting out for sea.

With Admiral Mathews's orders in his breast pocket, James stroked the familiar rail and looked out over the deck crawling with busy men and animals—hens starting at the shriek of a fife, boys running between the legs of cows, lieutenants and young gentlemen strutting and shouting. It felt strange to be here while so many others were not—he thought of Beauclerk with the old sharp stab—but he had his orders and he felt no hesitation. He'd forgotten what peace there could be in service, when it was freely given.

The breeze brought him a great noseful of the sea, that cold, brackish rot that permeated all his most important memories. He closed his eyes. The next land they'd touch would be the Azores, and then Minorca, two months away. The tide was slack; it was time to weigh anchor.

As the topsails filled and the ship stood out for open sea, he put behind him the place that had been his home for a decade. He was not a man meant to have a home. For him, the chase had no end. But out there, another man was fleeing while he was chasing, and occasionally their wakes might cross, tracing the figure of an embrace on the sea. It was enough.


Language Notes: A translation of what Jack says in Spanish: "You have me confused with some other guy. Get your hands off me, you sons of bitches!"

Author's Note: And that's it! Many thanks to Schemingreader, Concertigrossi, Porridgebird, Blackletter, Grypons_lair, and Sharklady35 for their kind support and input, and to Eldivinomarques, Lolitalockhart and N0_leaf_clover for language help. Guys, I could not have written this without you.

Historical Notes: Throughout the story, Norrington alternately plays the roles of two historical Navy captains: Commodore Charles Brown and Captain Charles Knowles. Other canon characters stand in for historical figures as well: Gillette for Captains Digby Dent and Edward Boscawen, and Governor Swann for Governor Trelawney. Norrington's father is based on an Army engineer named Joseph Bennet. The other major characters are all real people. Jack Sparrow, of course, has no historical precedent whatsoever. I do worry that I misrepresented certain figures, like Admiral Vernon, who filled the necessary role of villain. But I think my portrayal errs only by degree. Vernon was an asshole, just not quite as much of one as I make him out to be. Lowther, too, was misrepresented. He was not a spy, as far as I know (although there was a spy whom they called "El Paisano"). Other changes I made to the historical narrative include:

Don Pedro Elizagaray. He was a real person, but I made up his conspiracy with Lowther (who, as I said, wasn't actually a spy) and basically everything else about him. The English didn't bring him to Cartagena either.

All of the other pirates. I considered using famous pirates for Jack's allies, but they needed to be unimpressive by historical standards, and there were not a lot of big-name pirate operating in the Caribbean by then anyway.

Uniforms. Neither the British nor the Spanish Navy had uniforms yet in 1739.

Lord Aubrey's career. The fight with the Turks never happened, and in fact he commanded the Garland in the Mediterranean from 1733-4, at a time when Norrington would already have been in the West Indies.

The 1739 attack on the treasure fleet. Never happened, as far as I know.

Little details about all the battles. I compressed time a lot, and Norrington leads attacks that his historical counterparts didn't. Because he's the hero, of course.

Norrington's capture of the Spanish ships in the Mona Passage. Totally made up. Lord Aubrey did run into Knowles at sea, though.

The ball isn't based on a historical ball. There may have been one, but I don't know anything about it.

Norrington as reluctant go-between in the fight between Vernon and Wentworth. Knowles, Norrington's historical counterpart, was totally on Vernon's side.

The letters sewn into the British ensign. That actually happened several months later in Cuba.

The sneaking-water-to-the-army intrigue. Didn't happen. As I said, Knowles was on Vernon's side the whole time.

Don Blas booby-trapping Castillo Grande. Never happened.

Don Sebastian wanting to move the goods out of the customs-house. Didn't happen.

The whole customs-house conspiracy and its consequences. Jack's capture, Norrington's accusation as a spy, their imprisonment and interrogation, the court-martial...nothing like that ever happened. The Galicia's suicide mission to fire on the city, though, did.

And Rentone never captured the Black Pearl, obviously.

There were lots of other little things I changed, but those are most of the major ones.

Thanks for reading, everyone!