Black Pearl Prompt: Voodoo
He entered the hut cautiously, scanning the entrance of the cramped space with alert and wary eyes, with hand tight around the hilt. The very air seemed to vibrate with warning, pulsing the wick of each lit candle as if begging him to turn and flee; a silent reverberant of his own inner guard. Even as the apprehension moistened his brow and tightened his chest, he was determined, nodding at his quartermaster to return to the longboat allowing him quiet consol with the mystic woman inside.
He feared no one, especially not a woman, but by the numerous stories told from Singapore to Panama he knew to be wary of Tia Dalma. Her bargains where much like a two sided sword and always benefited her in some unseen way.
This was his second visit to her dilapidated shack. The previous time, he'd not made it past the door or even uttered a word. She only spoke to him long enough to specify what she expected in form of payment for her assistance.
He glanced down at the sack he carried, remembered as earth collapsed beneath his feet during procuring the item inside, and scowled. For a brief second, he wondered what the woman could possibly want with it as it was nothing he figured a woman would fancy, though her reason mattered not. He wanted an answer to a far more pressing question.
This time, he would not leave unsatisfied. She'd not deny him again.
He gave the door three solid knocks to announce his arrival and demand her audience. He was met with neither salutation nor acknowledgement. The thought that she'd have the gall to ignore his presence was intolerable and he pressed inside without admission.
A rickety stair to his right that lead to a loft above. He craned his neck and peered upwards and listened. The loft was dark and silent. Determined empty and then forgotten, he crept further inward.
He found the room before him morbidly beautiful. Religious paraphernalia of every imaginable denomination were mounted to the walls and piled upon the floor. Reflecting in the golden candle glow, glass bottles hung from the rafters, the uses of their contents could only be conjured from a witches mind. He maneuvered his way around them, examining each, and ventured deeper inside until bumping soundly into a small table at the room's center.
He grunted a curse and bent over to rub his smarting shin. When he straightened, a smooth glimmer on the table caught his attention. Behind a collection of small shells was what appeared to be a metallic object, one that was oddly enchanting. He slid the shells aside to examine it closer and discovered it to be a medallion with the most intricate carvings he'd ever seen in silver.
Certainly it could prove to be bad luck to steal from the mystic, he figured, but the risk of angering her would be worth it as the value of such a fine piece would fill his food stores for weeks. After a furtive glance around the room, he reached to take it for himself.
"Edward Teach..." crooned a sultry voice.
He turned toward it and staggered a step back when he found her standing directly behind him, surprised he'd not sensed her approach.
"Blackbeard," she purred, raking his facial hair.
Her fingers had not reached his skin, but their proximity made him certain that he was uncomfortable with her touch.
At his rigidness, she cast a haughty pout and eased herself into a chair at the table, her finger tracing her lips as she regarded him for a long moment.
He steeled himself under her shuddersome scrutiny and stated his intention. "I come to learn what fate has designed for me... and if that design can be altered." It was meant to be a demand, but his voice sounded more of one asking for permission.
"I expect payment," she stated flatly, glancing blatantly at what he was holding, evidently reaching a conclusion on whatever she'd been contemplating.
He lifted the sack and left it plop down onto her small table. "Done as requested."
She delved through it and grinned with satisfaction when she removed a large, feather adorned hat.
"Come. Sit." She said, motioning to a chair opposite of her own.
As he sat down, she swept the sack to the floor and placed the hat aside. She steepled her fingers and said, "Fate can follow many paths, paths twisted as threads in da woven cloth of destiny."
"Then I want control of the weaver," he answered sharply.
His unease elevated when she appeared amused by his response.
She held out her hand. When he did nothing other than stare at it with indecision, she wiggled her fingers and ribbed, "Ya hand, Edward Teach."
His arm suddenly felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds, but he did as she asked without argument.
She took his hand before her, holding him tightly by his forearm. With a quick jerk she slit the wrist of her free hand with a jagged fingernail and let her blood seep over his palm.
His hand had been stained by a many's blood and, tempered by the frequency of the occurrence, he'd come to no longer be affected by the sensation, but none had ever scalded as hers. As she manipulated his hand, intently studying how the blood shifted through the contours of his weathered skin, she roused a thick stench of death that impregnated the air surrounding the table. It was all he could do to not gag.
"Yes, yes," she whispered to herself, nodding. "I show ya."
She ran her hand slowly up his chest, leaving a trail of her blood along the length of his shirt, bringing her body close to his as she reached for something behind his ear.
Her bosom rose and fell in front of his eyes and he couldn't help but breathe in her perfume, the scent momentarily softening the blood's fetor. When she leaned back into her chair, she held between them what he'd recognized instantly to be a small voodoo doll.
He stared at it, nonplussed, for several seconds. It was made from dried swamp reeds with a tuff of human hair secured by a knotted red clothe around its head. The oddest part of the doll's appearance was that face had been painted with two rolls of multiple eyes. Obviously, the doll had been modeled after someone in particular, perhaps someone who had dared cross the woman in the past.
Teach swallowed hard, glad he did not succeed in stealing the woman's medallion, and asked shallowly, "Who be this man?"
Tia Dalma twisted the doll between her fingers, looking at it with an apparent, if not possessive, intimacy. "Dis man... be da final tool of securing your destiny."
She pocketed the doll and returned her finger to his reddened palm.
"Dis man will present himself to you. Make a doll of him likeness. Brand him with da mark of Poseidon," she said, drawing the shape of a trident, "and control him she shall."
"She?" He spat, finding the thought of any woman controlling a man preposterous.
"Yes, she. Da second tool. Seven winter's time, a woman of your bloodline shall come to you."
"How will I know this woman is of my kin?" He interrupted, still cross.
"She give you a name of one only you'd know. Take her on board ya ship as your equal."
He balked. "A woman aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge?"
Her eyes met his. "It be her sacrifice dat save you."
He considered that silently for a long moment, deciding that if this woman did as the mystic claimed, then her presence aboard his ship could be tolerated.
"The first tool?"
"Ah," she breathed as her lips curl in a manner he found unsettling. "Ya seek... Zombies."
"A man bereft of soul, hollow, without da will ta think for himself...," her eyes narrowed, "if dat be him master's want."
Finally, seemingly closer to his goals, he grew a bit hopeful. "Completely compliant."
Her brow rose and fell. "Zombies are implements of voodoo," she continued, imparting a degree of caution into her smooth tone. "Live by Black Magic. Some can see things, know things, before they happen... but not why they come to be."
He did not detect the equivocal undertones in what she'd explained, as he found the thought of a controlling a person who could foretell his future compelling.
He leaned in closer. "How is a zombie acquired?"
"A corpse, still warm and before da worms feast upon da flesh, place da liver of a puffer fish unda him tongue. Da next moon rise, he waken a zombie."
"I do this, and the man belongs to me?"
"Wid voodoo, yes."
"Then I demand the power! Give it to me!"
She brought his hand to her mouth and blew a hot breath. The blood desiccated and left his palm as a crimson dust that swirled as a cyclone before him.
With a yelp of alarm he leapt up, tried to get away from the twisting zephyr, but she seized him by both arms and jerked him back down to the table with an unnatural strength.
"Take a breath and become!" She ordered, except it was not her voice that ascended from the woman's throat. It was wretched, simultaneously deep and shrill, a growl from hell itself. As the demon voice spoke, her pupils expanded, encapsulating the whole eye in darkness.
As instructed, a fearful Teach inhaled. As the last of the dust crossed his nostrils, saturating his nose, mouth and throat with the scent of decay, every candle in the hut went dark.
Overwhelmed by a sudden and intense nausea, he crumpled to the floor and retched. As the her blood coursed through his veins with each pounding beat of his heart, a searing pain burned him internally. He seized and convulsed as it moved from his core outward to his extremities.
He didn't realize what pained his ears was his own horrified screams.
Then all was still. The pain stopped as abruptly as it had started.
Feeling denigrated, infected by a ensorcelled malignancy he'd yet to understand, Teach laid panting on the floor, temporarily debilitated from the shock of what had just happened. It took a moment before he could stand, and that was with shaky, unsure legs. He had to use the table to brace himself as his raging heart slowed and strength returned.
It was with a wave of her hand that the candles rekindled and the hut reclaimed its golden luminance. At first, everything was a blur, but his vision slowly regained focus, bringing both her face, eyes white and brown, and a realization into striking clarity: He'd been tainted by her sortilege that was now infesting him like a parasite. His anger was so great, all he could do was glare and seethe.
As if reading his thoughts, yet apathetic to his rage, she laid her hand upon his shoulder and rasped, "In time, you will be able to grasp what it is I've given you... and know how it be used."
He recoiled, colliding though piles of her assorted treasures, until a wall at his back stopped him.
"Witch," he hissed, "what cursed form of devil are you?"
She chuckled with a low timbre that raised the hairs on the back of his neck.
He gave her a wide berth as he stormed towards the door, smashing through bottles as he did, leaving a trail of shattered glass behind him. Before he crossed the threshold, he became aware of another presence in the hut, one hidden and oddly unwanted, that halted him dead in his tracks. Teach pivoted around and surveyed the room, finding only the mystic still sitting calmly, the inauspicious smile still darkening her face.
A stirring from overhead drew his attention to the dark loft. As his hand gripped the bottom newel and his foot set upon the first tread, the sound of an agonized inhale of breath descended the stair.
Again the candles danced in a spectral wind, their light in the hut ebbed then surged, begging him to leave. As their eerie pulsations chilled his core with a deep dread, he concluded that whatever, or whomever, lay atop the stair was not of the natural world. It was death.
Hesitantly, he brought his stare back to Tia Dalma and asked with a timorous voice, "What is it you gain from this?"
She spoke slowly, her smile widening with each syllable, "Depends on what strings I pull."
The last of his nerves unhinged and he clambered out her door in a panicked flourish.
Leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed nonchalantly over her chest, Tia Dalma watched Blackbeard's longboat depart from her jetty and make its way back through the swamp to the open sea.
She eyed each of the few crewmembers Teach had brought with him one by one and pondered how long it would be till be he'd own their souls, yet to her their fates were insignificant.
She'd been torn from sleep by visions of the brutality he would inflict upon the creatures of her sea and of the men he'd send screaming to their deaths. She'd not know how she could stop his tyranny, but found comfort in knowing the derivation of his demise was by her doing. How long it would take to come to be was still unknown to her, as that was all up to his forthcoming actions.
As the longboat left her sight, the corners of her mouth twisted in reward. "Choose your path wisely, Edward Teach..."
A groan sounded from the loft. She swayed to the stair, crossed her arms over the rail and set her chin upon them, her eyes alive with anticipation as she peered upward. She glanced to the hat on the table and back again.
"Soon, my sweet," she called softly to the nearly resurrected body above of the man, by her hands, intertwined with her future and Edward Teach. "Dey come soon."