ARMADA OF THE DAMNED
Philip held her close, praying harder than he ever had before and hoping that the strength in his arms would leave him and enter her. He had nearly lost her once and he didn't want to lose her again.
"God, protect her!" he breathed, looking to Alexandra, "Fetch a boat from the Providence, go!"
Alexandra pushed herself back into the water and disappeared beneath the waves. He watched as the water churned and foam rose to the surface, streaking out towards the entangled fleets. The sun was finally dipping further below the horizon, giving way to night as the stars began to show themselves in the now cloudless sky. Still, the horizon glowed... from the many ships that burned at the hands of Barbossa's Queen Anne's Revenge.
I am the giver and taker of life. If you have been chosen to wield My power to take the lives of daemons, then you also wield My power to save the lives of angels.
Philip looked up at the brightening stars, the corners of his eyes streaked with the tears he had shed. Then he remembered what he had seen during the duel against Roberts, how he had cut him, how St. Piran's Blade had sliced open his skin, cauterizing the wound instantly. Philip's eyes turned back down to Syrena's face, which was contorted into a pained unconsciousness.
"Syrena, can you hear me?" he asked.
She remained still and his eyes flicked to her chest; it still rose and fell. Then, after murmuring a prayer in silence, he drew his spadroon from its scabbard. As always, the blade brightened until it glowed with a blinding white light.
Do it. You can save her just as she saved you.
Slowly, Philip reached down and pinched at Syrena's side, holding the gash together as if a needle and thread were ready to sew it shut. Blood oozed out and over his fingers, but he remained firm as he brought St. Piran's Blade down to her side. Carefully, he inserted the tip of the blade into her wound, quickly pulling it along the gash and cauterizing the interior. Once this was finished, he pulled the blade out and put the flat side against the wound, sealing it shut. When it healed, it would look as if she had been branded under the ribs, but at least she would be alive. He felt her tense and shudder as the blade touched her, then she reached up and grabbed his arm, gasping in pain.
"Syrena, it's ok!" Philip said quickly, "I am stopping the bleeding and closing the wound."
She pulled on his arm, hauling her face up to his. Their eyes met and she leaned in, her lips nearly touching his ear.
Philip drew back to look at her, "You knew?"
Syrena shook her head with all the strength she could muster and whispered again, "Yes."
"Yes what?" Philip asked in confusion.
Syrena's lips barely cracked into a smile, but he could see her amusement at his confusion in her eyes. Were she not in so much pain, he knew she would be laughing.
"Yes, I will marry you!" she exclaimed softly.
Philip froze, as did time and space. They stared at each other, unable to contain their joy despite her pain and his worry. Philip began to laugh in silent bursts.
"Yes! That yes!" he laughed, "You said yes!"
"Of course," Syrena replied as she laid back, "that was always my answer... it was only a matter of you asking me so I could say it."
Philip sheathed his spadroon and wrapped his arms under her, pulling her up into an embrace as their lips met in their first kiss as a couple engaged. Then they laid there on the sand, feeling the water rush up over his toes and her fins, watching the boat from the Providence as it rowed towards them with all the speed it could muster.
"It hurts terribly, the wound." Syrena mused.
"But you're alive," Philip answered, "the pain says so. Pain is sometimes good."
She nodded and nestled close to him, her mouth switching from grimace to grin as she felt both joy and anguish. Alexandra burst from below the surface and pulled herself through the surf towards them.
"How is she?!" Alexandra asked.
"Alive and safe!" Philip called back, "I used St. Piran's Blade to cauterize the wound."
Alexandra stopped, a smile breaking onto her face, "Thank God!"
Philip nodded, then arched a brow, "You said Morvoren is dead?"
Alexandra's smile vanished and she nodded grimly, "Yes... she is gone."
"Who is Queen now?" he asked.
Alexandra remained silent for a moment, solemnly looking at them. Before she could say it, Philip and Syrena realized it.
"I am..." Alexandra said slowly, "she turned her throne over to me upon her death, while Syrena avenged her."
"She couldn't have picked a better mermaid," Philip answered, "I owe you my life... we all do... for what you have done."
By now the boat had ground to a halt in the shallows and Groves leapt from it. He splashed through the water with several men on his heels.
"Are you alright, sir?!" he asked frantically.
"I am fine. Take her, she's suffered a wound." Philip answered.
Groves nodded and gestured for the men to pick her up. As they lifted her from the water, her tail melted away and into her legs again, leaving the sailor that had picked her up by the fins empty handed. He froze for a moment and looked at the water as it washed through his fingers, then looked to Groves in astonishment.
Syrena was the first to laugh, "You lucked out, sailor!"
Groves chuckled as Philip grinned and the sailor sheepishly nodded to her.
"I suppose so, ma'am."
Philip turned to Groves as they carried Syrena to the boat, "A Siren cut her under the ribs; I managed to cauterize it with the Blade."
Groves looked at the sheathed spadroon on Philip's hip and arched a brow, "A smart move, Commodore. I'll have the surgeon treat it as a burn."
They climbed into the boat and shoved off, bobbing back through the shallows as Alexandra drifted up alongside.
"What now, Philip?" she asked.
"We sail for Cornwall," Philip nodded to her, "Syrena and I have vows to take and you a wedding to behold."
The men in the boat looked to Philip, doing their best to keep their faces neutral.
"Oh, go ahead!" Groves grinned.
The men in the boat broke into smiles and cheered, waving their hats above their heads as Syrena smiled from where she laid in the boat.
"What's more, we've a coronation to attend as well!" Philip exclaimed.
The cheering died down as they turned their eyes to Alexandra, who tried to keep her lips from turning up.
"Your Grace!" one of the men bowed his head to her jovially.
"Well, this has been quite an eventful day..." Groves mused as he eased over the tiller, "An armada and the Devil's man defeated, an engagement, and the reign of a new queen!"
"Then hop to it!" Philip declared, "The faster we sail for Cornwall, the sooner you'll see that cake and the wine that comes with it!"
The men laughed and pulled harder on their oars, rowing back across the expanse towards the fleets that were finally starting to put out fires and pull entangled ships apart. There was much work to be done, but everyone was more than willing to do it.
The Minister looked to Philip with the warmest of expressions. Though he did not openly smile, he could see the expression trying to break out onto his face and the twinkle in his eyes.
Philip stood on the steps of the Holy Well, overlooking the cliffs of Cornwall and the gray Celtic Sea beyond. The air was cool, damp, and the sky a bright gray. As such, the bright and thick carpet of grass covering the rolling hills of Britain stood out. It was a beauty that few could understand. In spite of this backdrop, his eyes did not scan it, for they were on the eyes of someone who was even more beautifully mysterious... someone that only he and God could understand.
"I, Philip Swift, take thee, Syrena, to be my lawful wedded Wife," he said to her, "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death do us part, according to God's Holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."
The Minister's mouth finally turned up into a smile and he turned to Syrena, whose eyes never left the man standing across from her. She was clothed in a simple white dress, contrasting Philip's simple dark attire well. Before them sat their guests, seated in wooden chairs aligned in rows on the open ground between the abbey and the Holy Well. It wasn't entirely a wedding that would be written of in the papers, or a wedding that one would even want to make widely known. Across the front row sat Captains James Norrington, Jack Sparrow, Angelica Teach, Hector Barbossa, and William Turner. Behind them was a plethora of pirates and sailors, who had done their best to clean some of the grime from their faces and clothes. Behind the seats stood a rank of petty officers from the Providence, clad in their finest short jackets, trousers, and tarred hats, presided over by Theodore Groves and Daniel Gillette.
Syrena smiled, her eyes still on Philip's as she spoke, "I, Syrena, take thee, Philip Swift, to be my lawful wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and obey, till death do us part, according to God's Holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."
The Minister's smile broadened as he turned back to Philip.
"Here you are, brother." Nathaniel said quietly into Philip's ear, stepping forward and placing the ring in his palm.
Philip held the ring up for Syrena to see. It was a simple band of gold, the outside engraved to resemble the scales of a fish. He took her hand and spoke to her as he slowly slid it on.
"With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
The Minister raised his hands to the crowd, "Ladies and Lords, may I present to you Philip and Syrena Swift. You may now kiss your bride."
Philip stepped up to Syrena and gently slid his hand behind her waist, pulling her close as she wrapped her arm about his neck. They leaned in and for the first time, met each other's lips as man and wife. The crowd stood and applauded; Jack removed his hat and reached back to Gibbs.
"Mr. Gibbs... you have permission to throw my hat... don't lose it this time!"
Gibbs chuckled, "Aye, Captain!"
"Detail, atten-shun!" Groves shouted, "Draw your swords!"
The smartly uniformed sailors snapped ramrod straight and pulled out their cutlasses, keeping them straight up against their sides so the tips of their blades rested on their shoulders.
They stepped off neatly, curving around to the front of the guests, lining up in two columns facing the Holy Well.
"Detail, halt! Outward, face!"
They stepped apart in perfect unison, the steel plates on the heels of their shoes clicking neatly.
"And about, face!"
Philip withdrew from Syrena, offering her his arm, which she took gently with a genuine smile.
"I thought this practice was reserved for navy weddings, Leftenant?" Philip asked Groves.
Groves shot a glance at Philip from where he stood at attention, a smile creeping onto his face.
"Well, we're not the King's Navy, are we?" Gillette asked from the other side.
Norrington clasped his hands behind his back from where he stood among the guests, cocking his head with an amused expression on his face.
Philip and Syrena stepped down from the Holy Well, laughing and bowing their heads to duck under the sword arch. As they passed, each pair of sailors grinned and sheathed his cutlass to hurry off to the drinking that was already ensuing amongst the crews.
"Congratulations, Commodore and Mrs. Swift." Norrington bowed his head.
"Thank you for all that you've done." Syrena said back.
Jack accepted his hat from Gibbs, who quickly turned to get a drink before it vanished.
"Captain Sparrow... I thought you would be the first to the wine?" Philip asked.
Jack brushed aside his frock and pulled an entire bottle out of his waistcoat, grinning mischievously as Philip and Syrena laughed.
"You didn't think I'd settle for one glass, now did ya, mate?" he asked, "Especially not when it's this!"
Norrington stiffened at the comment and blinked, "Were this another time and I in another uniform, I'd have something harsh to say..."
Jack looked to Norrington with a grin, "You really should let go of yourself, former Commodore, er, former pirate, Admiral, whatever you were... are..."
Norrington shook his head with a small smile and stepped off, congregating with Groves and Gillette, the latter of which offered Norrington a glass. He took it and looked to Sparrow, raised it, and downed it.
"It appears Mr. Norrington does have some room for personal indulgences, Captain Sparrow." Philip mused.
Jack gazed at Norrington for a moment absentmindedly, then frowned and looked to Philip, "I'm normally one to harp on being called Captain Jack Sparrow... but for once, I must insist you call me Jack!"
Philip and Syrena grinned and nodded, "Very well then, Jack."
Jack grinned and put his arms up, "You know what I love? Weddings! I love weddings! Drinks all around!"
He stumbled off, pulling a knife from his belt and working at his wine bottle's cork, much to the surprised looks of the crew as he walked by. He approached Angelica, who stood by the Minister with a wine glass in hand.
"Ah, Mr. Sparrow..." the Minister greeted him.
"That would be Captain, if you please." Jack answered crisply as he yanked the cork out of the bottle.
"I have been talking with Miss. Teach here..."
"Have you now?" Jack asked with a grin. He took a pull from the bottle and wiped his mouth, "You know, I've been thinking about the same thing, Angelica."
"About what?" she asked.
"Well, with this being a wedding and all... and us having a minister... conveniently... right here..." Jack mused.
The Minister arched a brow and opened his mouth in amused surprise as Angelica's brow furrowed into a dark look.
"What?" she snapped.
"He could take more than one set of vows today, savvy?" Jack suggested.
Angelica tossed the wine in Jack's face and he froze. For a moment, they stood there, staring at one another as droplets of wine ran down Jack's nose and onto his beard. He licked his lips and smiled.
"That's good stuff you're having!"
Angelica bared her teeth with a small snarl and slapped him hard across the face, storming off as the Minister rushed to catch Jack.
"Are you alright?" the Minister asked, trying not to laugh.
"I did deserve that..." Jack mumbled.
Philip and Syrena stood next to each other, looking out over the cliffs at the Celtic Sea and the sunset as the day finally waned. Nathaniel walked up behind them with a glass and cleared his throat.
"Here's to you brother, and you... sister." he said with a sincere smile.
Philip and Syrena looked back to him and Philip nodded, "Thank you, Nathaniel."
Nathaniel downed his glass and raised it to them again as he made to walk away, then he paused and arched a brow.
"Say, you wouldn't mind introducing me to one of your friends, Syrena?"
Syrena bit back a laugh and nodded, "Perhaps, Nathaniel, perhaps..."
Nathaniel cocked his head, "I like women with red hair..."
Philip waved at him, "Go enjoy the party you crazy git!"
Nathaniel grinned and walked away, leaving them alone again.
"Surely he can't mean Alexandra?" Philip asked.
"I think he does..." Syrena replied as she rested her head on Philip's shoulder, "can you imagine? Your brother with the Queen of the Mermaids?"
"Even if it did happen... she's not the greatest of them all..." Philip told her.
"Then who is? If not the Queen?"
Philip looked at her, "You are, my Syrena."
She smiled and met him in another kiss, then they looked back out to watch their first Cornish sunset as Mr. and Mrs. Swift.
The sun beat down relentlessly on the dry, parched earth that was India. Even in the shade of the palm and date trees, the air was unbearably hot. A lone rider galloped along a dusty road, the skirts of his scarlet frock billowing behind him. He rode through the archway of an old fort, the stone walls of which were covered in cracked plaster and overlooked by black iron guns. Once inside the compound, the reined his steed to a stop and hopped down, handing the animal over to a dark-skinned Sepoy. Another Sepoy, who wore a British uniform and a white turban in lieu of a cocked hat, gestured to an open doorway and led him inside. They trooped down the hall and the Sepoy knocked on a large oak door.
"Enter." a voice boomed from inside.
The Sepoy opened the door and the courier entered, removing his dusty cocked hat and white riding gloves.
"I have correspondence for His Lordship, the Baron."
The Colonel on the opposite side of a desk beckoned with his fingers to produce the message, a gesture to which the courier shook his head.
"I am afraid I cannot do that, sir. This message is to be seen by His Lordship alone."
The Colonel eyed the courier standing across the room for a moment before standing, "Follow me, Sergeant."
They both strode through a doorway in the back of the office and down another small hall lined with doors, entering one at the opposite end of the hall. It opened into a large room that was washed white, the plaster walls adorned with paintings of the many glorious engagements throughout British history. The floor was covered with large black and white checkered tiles that had recently seen polish, a contrast to the well-worn and scraped wooden floors of the other rooms in the fort. On one wall was a large map of the subcontinent, which was covered with many pink regions denoting British control. On the opposite side of the room was a large oak desk, behind which a large flag was hung on the wall. It was a red and white striped flag with the Union Jack set in the corner.
The flag of the Honorable East India Trading Company.
"Wait here." the Colonel said quietly.
The Sergeant stood silently as the Colonel approached another doorway that led out onto a balcony, which was flanked by open windows covered with see-through drapes that billowed in the breeze. There was a hushed exchange of words outside and the Colonel stepped back inside, placing one hand gracefully behind his back as another man entered. He was in his upper middle age, balding, and boasting the weight of a man wealthy enough to spend a comfortable amount of time and money eating. What was left of his hair was actually powdered and pulled back into a club, and as such there was a faint line of crust along his hairline from his sweat interacting with the powder. He was dressed in a red frock with blue facings and gilt buttonhole trim, under which he wore a white waistcoat, breeches, and hose. A red silk sash was worn diagonally across his chest under his frock and a Knightly order was pinned to his left breast.
"My Lord." the Sergeant bowed, gesturing further with his hands.
"What is it, Sergeant, that brings you directly to my presence?" the Lord asked.
"Correspondence, My Lord," the Sergeant answered, "Directly from the Company offices in Cornwall."
"And you had to deliver it to me? I don't keep a full Colonel as my aide for no reason at all!" the Lord replied angrily.
"It is but for your eyes only, My Lord." the Sergeant replied quickly.
"Then hand it over and be out of my sight!" the Lord snapped.
The Sergeant delved into his brown leather satchel and produced a canvas envelope, bearing the stamp of the Company on the front and a red wax seal on the back. He extended it to the Lord, who snatched it away and waved for the Colonel and Sergeant to leave.
Once they were gone, the Lord turned it over and broke the seal, pulling the letter from the envelope, which he tossed down on his desk. After reading it, he looked up and strode to the door and called down the hall.
"Colonel Wormwood, send for Captain Allen!" he ordered.
The Lord turned and strode back to his desk, setting the letter down and approaching his wine cabinet. He began pouring two glasses of white wine and looked at the map across the room as he waited. The areas drawn out with red and filled with pink were not officially property of the Company, but they soon would be... unless his plans were foiled as Beckett's had been.
Minutes later there was a knock on the door frame and the Lord looked to see an officer clad in a Company Escort Service uniform. He had a thin face and naturally white hair despite a youthful complexion. His expression was blank, soldierly, loyal, and dutiful.
"Ah, Captain Allen, do come in," the Lord greeted him, "Care for some wine?"
"If His Lordship wishes it," Allen replied, "it would be my pleasure."
The Captain approached and fetched the other glass, taking a sip, "What can I do for you, My Lord?"
The Lord tapped the letter on the desk, "I have a personal mission for you to take care of."
Allen nodded courteously, "As you wish, My Lord."
"Nathaniel Swift is alive." the Lord informed him.
There was a moment of silence before Allen opened his mouth.
"Is he now? I wonder how he managed to escape and feint his death for so long?"
The Lord picked up the paper and lit a candle on his desk, "I hope you intend to see to it that we are the only ones to discover he is alive."
"I will dispatch him quickly, My Lord."
The Lord nodded as he held the letter over the candle and let it burn, "Good... because dead men tell no tales."