AN: Takes place immediately after the events of 'Marked'
Normally, Puck was not the fleeing type. As the only hobgoblin to stand with Oberon during the war that had split the Court in two, she'd fought hard and never retreated unless her Lord commanded it. The Puck's ferocity in battle was as legendary as her love of tricks and pranks.
Now, though, she was running through Shadow, the place between places, her newly-branded arm cradled against her chest. She gasped at every movement that jarred the iron-caused injury and sent another stab of pain up her arm.
Iron. The bane of every faerie's existence. The metal that mortals tore from the earth and turned into so many things. It was everywhere now, and its influence was only growing. And while faeries could be cruel and vicious, it was only humans that were so barbaric with their metal of choice.
She shuddered and cradled her arm, finally coming to a halt just inside a space of shadowed walls. This part of Shadow overlapped with the captain's cabin of a very special ship. Shaking a little in pain and exhaustion, she peered around, hoping that its occupant was home.
Yes- oh thank Oberon, he was here.
Puck limped over to the desk the man was working at and phased into the material plane, slumping against the side of the desk. A pained cry escaped her as her rump hit the floor, the shock traveling up her spine to cause another firework of agony to flare in her arm.
Captain Edward Teague jumped back from the desk, swearing. "God's blood, Puck!" he growled. "What have I told you 'bout just appearin'-" He looked down at her and fell silent, his dark eyes taking in her disheveled appearance- her face drawn, her tunic mussed, her silky mane of white hair tangled and all out of place, her right arm cradled against her chest. "What happened to you?"
"Beckett," Puck croaked. "Beckett caught me."
"Beckett?" The pirate's eyes narrowed, and he swatted the side of Puck's head. "Didn' I tell you no good would come of associatin' with the EIC? Time an' time again, lass!"
She cringed a little at the blow, but did not retaliate the way she would have if anyone but Teague had struck her. He'd come to think of her as a daughter, and she recognized the swat for what it was- an angry parent chastising a child for an idiotic decision. "Bastard got lucky," she replied, shaking her head a little. "He won't get lucky twice."
"Damn right he won'," Teague growled. He knelt and scooped her up in his arms. She hissed a little as he jostled her arm, but let him carry her to the bed. It wasn't a difficult task. Puck's preferred shape was of a Sidhe, a small, slight breed of Fae, no more than five feet tall with a slender build, hardly a burden to a sturdy long-time seaman like Teague. Setting her on the bed, he gently took her wounded arm- and gasped as he saw the distinctive 'P' branded onto the back of her wrist. He looked up at her, dark eyes boring into deep green. "Wha'. Happened?"
Puck sighed. "They tried to have Jack transport slaves," she said quietly. When Teague stiffened, she continued. "I had to take them, of course, but I set them free. Beckett found out and had me convicted of piracy... and he branded me as one. Well... he thought he was branding Jack, but... it was an iron brand, Edward." She cringed a little at the very thought, and had to bite back a whimper. Empty night, that hurt...
Teague was gentle as he cleaned the burn, doing his best not to cause the faerie any more pain. For her part, Puck bit her tongue and kept as silent as she could. It was hard, with the lightning bolts of pain that came every time he touched the wound and the area around it. To distract herself, she closed her eyes tightly and tried to think about something other than the pain.
She'd met Teague almost four years ago. Her Lord Oberon, King of the Third Race, had disbanded his Court almost eight hundred years ago in the wake of the 'Elva Incident', as it was called, and as such had needed her only on rare occasions. At loose ends, Puck had wandered through most of Europe, watching and playing with any mortals that caught her eye, until she ran into Oberon's only son by his queen Titania, Prince Borealis. Bored, the two had gotten it into their heads to pass the next forty years by playing out a wager, to see which of them, in that span of time, could become the more successful mortal sailor.
Puck knew instantly that she had no desire to be a run-of-the-mill, boring Navy man for her tenure. No, that certainly would not do for the greatest Trickster of Oberon's Court! The hobgoblin had a much different path to fame and victory in mind: piracy.
To become a pirate, of course, she would need to become a sailor first, in order to learn the ropes, as it were. Borealis, of course, would need to do the same thing. They reckoned it would take about a decade for them to earn their way to a position where they could feasibly go out and win success, and then they would have thirty years in which to go do it. Puck wasted no time in getting started and set out to find herself a captain.
She eventually settled on one Captain Edward Teague, a pirate she'd run into while hanging around a London tavern called The Captain's Daughter. She'd been intrigued by the dusky, gruff man and had so taken on the form of a young human boy she named Toby Hawkins looking for work on a ship. By sheer coincidence- truly coincidence, Puck had not meddled with her predecessor in the slightest- Teague had needed a new cabin boy and had been happy to take Toby onboard the Troubadour for the role.
Normally a creature of the deep woods, Puck had found herself fascinated by the sea. It could be as much of a trickster as she was- sometimes sweet and calm, at other times raging and tumultuous with little to no warning. The ever-present smell of salt, pitch, and unwashed bodies had taken a bit of getting used to, but at least that last was little worse than other smelly groups she'd dealt with before. The hobgoblin often thought it was probably a good thing that humans didn't have much in the way of a sense of smell, because surely the lower classes would constantly be gagging on their own body odor if they had!
As Toby, Puck had happily set to work. She was used to serving, and Teague was a good man to serve. As a cabin boy, she ran errands for Teague and the other officers, helped the cook with food preparation and serving- for some reason she would casually not attest to, the sailors always liked it when young Hawkins was helping the cook, because the food was strangely much tastier- and got a chance to become familiar with how all of the lines and sails and other bits and pieces of a sailing vessel worked. She especially loved climbing the rigging for lookout or sail adjustments, for being up so high above the ship while it plowed through the waves was nearly as good as flying. It was great fun, and very different than anything she'd done before. Faeries, in general, did not sail, preferring to use magic to get from place to place, but even when they did sail, it was in simple boats with oars or spells on them to make them move. A faerie boat might be luxurious, but it would never approach the sheer innovative wonder that was a human sailing ship.
So Puck, in the shape of little Toby, spent a very entertaining couple of years onboard the Troubadour under Captain Teague. It didn't take him long to realize that, whenever he brought his ship and crew into battle with other pirates, his cabin boy was always there fending off any fool who dared board with the intentions of hurting his captain. Toby always seemed to have astonishing luck in a fight, rarely coming away from battle with anything worse than a scratch or a couple of splinters.
Things were going well for Teague and his crew in the two years after little Toby joined them. The Captain, recently named Pirate Lord of Madagascar, was quite content. They'd made a number of profitable raids and the Troubadour had made quite a name for herself.
Then came a blow that no one was sure their captain would be able to recover from. His son Jack Sparrow, then a merchant sailor working for the East India Trading Company, had been lost at sea.
Puck shivered at the memory. Her Edward, her Captain- it hadn't taken very long at all for Puck's possessive nature to make her start considering Teague one of her mortals- had been so shattered at the news. The relationship between the two men was not the best, and somehow that made it all the more tragic. Any chance of reconciliation they might have had was now lost forever. No parent should have to outlive their child...
A few weeks after the news had come, Toby had sensed something very odd coming from the Captain's cabin- magic, strong magic that tugged at Puck's fae soul even through the mortal shape she wore, calling to her. Only one sort of magic could have that sort of effect: A summoning. A poorly shielded one too, if Puck could feel it.
Knowing that he'd catch it from the bo'sun later but not caring, Toby abandoned his watch post and crossed the dark deck to Teague's cabin. His sensitive nose caught the scents of rum, which wasn't especially unusual on a ship, but it was accompanied by something sharp and bitter- coffee, the sort of coffee that was something of a running joke among sailors in the Navy, black as pitch and reputed to be able to dissolve metal spoons if you left them in the mug too long. Holding his breath, Toby eased the door of the captain's cabin open.
Teague stood in a circle that had been drawn on the cabin floor in chalk. Around the circle were drawn intricate symbols, while before the captain was a table that had been pressed into use as a makeshift altar, and beyond it another, smaller, symbol-ringed circle. The scents of rum and coffee drifted from a cup of each on the altar, tucked between a couple of rather dirty-looking candles. Teague himself looked particularly unkempt, tired and worn, with the expression of a man who was placing everything he had on one last hope. He was chanting, and before Toby could do much more than take in what was going on, the captain had barked out the last words of the chant and pointed sharply at the smaller circle.
That strange pull on the part of Toby's soul that was Puck intensified, almost compelling the faerie to drop her mortal shape and appear in the circle. The boy dug in his heels and braced himself as a cloud of purple smoke appeared within the summoning circle. It writhed, winking with points of black and white lights, and after a moment it cleared to reveal a tall, thin man with a pale, skull-like face, dressed in a dark suit. He chewed on a cigar, and the expression in his purple eyes was one of mixed boredom and derision. From where Toby stood, he could see that the man's ears were slightly pointed, but he didn't need those to identify what had been caught in the summoning circle.
The Child of Oberon arched one eyebrow, looking at the human who had dared summon him. "Make it fast," he said in a rather nasal voice. "I have duties."
Teague stared up at his captive for a moment before managing to clear his throat. "Baron Samedi, greetings," he said, ducking his head briefly. He scrubbed at his cheek. "I am Edward Teague. My son has been taken. I want him back."
Baron Samedi? Toby grimaced. A distant cousin of Anubis, Lord of the Dead, the Baron held dominion over healing those near death, escorting dead souls to the realms of the dead, and, occasionally, resurrection. He only occasionally did resurrections, as it tended to annoy Anubis and Oberon hated it when his Children squabbled over business matters.
The Baron took one long look at Teague, then burst out laughing as Toby slipped into the cabin. The boy winced, sensing trouble. It was never safe to trust the Baron when he had that look on his face.
Teague whirled at the sound of his voice, and Baron Samedi peered past his captor to see just who it was who had interrupted them. "Get out!" he barked.
"By all means, boy," the Baron added with a smirk.
Toby bristled a little, not liking the other fae's tone. "Baron," he said, with considerably more authority than a cabin boy ought to possess, "Ye have no place here. Begone wi' ye."
"What are ye doin'?" Teague cried, eyes wide. He couldn't let the Baron leave, not when he was so close to getting Jack back.
The Baron laughed again as Toby stepped forward. "Give me a reason, mortal," he said rudely.
Toby knew that there was no reason for a fae like the Baron to obey a human boy, particularly one who wasn't commanding a summoning ritual. The Puck, though, was another matter. Narrowing his eyes a little, Toby performed the little mental trick that turned him from a mortal child and back into Puck, though for the moment she kept up a Glamour that made her remain appearing as Toby. Now, she had access to her magic, her authority.
Puck made her eyes flash with green magic as she stood in front of the Baron, glowering up at him. "By the command of the Puck, Baron, I bid you leave."
Teague gaped at her, and even the Baron did a double take as the magical signature of another Child of Oberon's presence suddenly registered in his senses. He recovered his composure swiftly, though, and laughed once more. "You do not frighten me, Trickster. This one called me!" He pointed at Teague, who was looking between the two in fear and confusion.
"In a circle that even the weakest of could break with hardly a thought, Baron," Puck pointed out. "He may have called you, but I am telling you to leave. Need I get unpleasant about this? You know our Lord would not approve of what you're doing here- and neither would Anubis."
The other fae made a rude noise. "What claim do you have here, Puck?" He looked down at the cabin boy with a sneer. "If you are truly the Puck."
Puck sighed, ignoring Teague's confused spluttering. The Baron had a point, it wouldn't be unheard of for another Child of Oberon to masquerade as another. He wouldn't be satisfied until she proved who she was and the sooner he left the happier she would be. She dropped her Glamour, revealing the shape of a slender, white-haired Sidhe that she preferred over her true hobgoblin self. "This mortal is mine, Baron," she said, dark green eyes narrowed in warning.
"I ain't nobody's!" Teague shouted. Puck continued to ignore him, glaring up at the Baron instead.
"He's mine," she repeated. She growled a little to emphasize her point.
The Baron paled a little. "Very well," he said, and vanished from the circle.
Teague stared at the empty summoning circle, and whirled on Puck. "Why'd ye do that?" he cried, his face twisted with the pain of loss. "He was my last hope!"
Puck clenched her jaw, trying to think of a way to smooth this over. "You wouldn't have liked what he gave you, Edward," she told him gently. The Baron had a reputation for a strange blend of compassion and cruel trickery. He might very well have fetched Jack Sparrow's spirit from Anubis's realm, but at what cost? He would have demanded a very high price of the mortal captain in exchange for the service, and Puck refused to have one of her human in debt to any other fae. Even if Teague could pay what Baron Samedi asked of him, there was no guarantee that Jack Sparrow would have been brought back as he was. He could have been brought back as a spirit trapped in a rotting corpse, or apparently whole and hale but with subtle things wrong with his mind, or worse. It would all have depended on the Baron's mood, and how Teague phrased his request. If one wanted a specific result from a faerie not positively inclined towards them, one had to be extremely careful with how the request was worded. Members of the Third Race were the masters of bending rules and working around bindings, often getting more enjoyment out of delivering on the substance of a bargain and twisting the spirit of it.
No, she definitely didn't want Teague getting mixed up in that.
Teague looked at the empty circle, at the altar, where the two candles had gone out. "Ge' away from me," he said quietly.
Puck shivered. She'd almost prefer him screaming over this subdued, empty order. She flitted over to him, hovering at shoulder height. "I'm sorry," she said. "But he wouldn't have given you Jack back."
"How d'ye bloody know?" he suddenly snarled, turning back to her. "Ye didn' give me a chance t' find out!"
"I know the Baron pretty well," she told him.
He growled and turned again, throwing everything on the small altar to the floor with a sweep of one arm. "Get out!"
She couldn't go. She hated to see him like this, on the very verge of breaking down. In the wake of his outburst against the altar tools she could see the way he trembled in grief. "I am truly sorry for the loss of your son."
"Ye took away m'last chance a' seein' him!" he snarled.
An idea occurred to Puck then. She'd heard stories of Jack Sparrow, seen him once or twice. He was her sort of mortal, a trickster, who used craft and guile and sheer ballsy audacity to overcome obstacles. And he was an experienced sea man, who had started to build up a reputation before his death... She did have a bet going with Borealis to consider, and if she happened to soothe a father's pain in the process...
"Maybe not," she said after thinking quickly for a moment. She had hurt Teague by chasing off the Baron, she could work this in as addressing the debt she 'technically' owed him for that...
Teague's eyes narrowed in suspicion as he glared at the pale faerie. "What d'ye mean?"
"I could become him," she said, "Take his form."
"Now yer mocking me." The pain was back in Teague's eyes.
"No!" she protested, shaking her head. "Listen, Edward, I can grant you one wish in compensation for the trouble I've brought you here, or... I could take Jack's form for the remainder of the years he should have had."
He stared at her for a moment in shock. "How can I trust ye?" he demanded at last. "How can I trust ye'd do it?"
She could see a faint flicker of hope in his eyes now, but there was wariness there too. He didn't have any real reason to trust her now. With luck, she could win a little from him. "A fae cannot break a promise, and we're bound to fulfill the terms of a contract."
She took a breath, concentrated, and built an image of Jack Sparrow in her mind. Once she had it, she wrapped herself in a Glamour to appear as the young mortal. She'd test his shape this way, pinning down any irregularities in his appearance and voice first before actually taking the form.
By the way Teague blanched and nearly tripped over himself as he stumbled back a few steps, she would be willing to bet her first try was a rather good attempt. Puck hastily dropped her Glamour, looking at him in concern.
"What are ye?" he demanded. "What sort of devil are ye? Why are ye doing this?"
"My name is Puck," she told him. "I'm a Child of Oberon- what you'd call a faerie. And I'm doing it because I am fond of you, Edward, and Jack was a trickster, my sort of mortal. I want to help keep his memory alive."
He stared at her, looking torn.
"I can't give you the real Jack back," she said quietly. "But... it would be something." She wanted to ease the pain in his eyes. She hated to see him like this. What would it hurt, to play at being Jack for a while? It wasn't as if Oberon had need of her right now...
Teague swallowed hard, scrubbing at his eye with one sleeve. "Do it," he said hoarsely.
She nodded. "I'll need you to help me with the details.
He looked at her for a moment, then nodded weakly. "'Course."
"We have an accord then." Puck brought up the Glamour again, reinforcing it with a little more magic to keep it more stable. Teague winced and looked away.
As Jack, Puck cleared her new throat. "First, what do I call you?"
Teague looked back at the young man standing in front of him. As Puck had intended, physically he was a twin for his dead son. However, he didn't sound like Jack. "Voice is too high," he said gruffly. "And ye call me Dad."
Puck pondered this, and mentally adjusted Jack's pitch. New forms always took a great deal of tweaking before they were ready for proper use. She would have to spend a while with Teague in order to finish fine-tuning this one. She could imagine the mess she would have on her hands if she did something un-Jack-like while she was pretending to be him in front of someone who would know something was wrong. "Dad, then," she said. This time, Jack's voice was deeper, and evidently met with Teague's approval, for she was rewarded with a nod.
The captain rubbed at his forehead, looking very old for a moment. "I need a drink," he muttered, and stumbled towards the bunk.
Puck obligingly conjured a couple bottles of rum and handed one to him.
"Thanks lad," he said, massaging his temple. He frowned. "Or... is Puck a lass?"
She dropped the Glamour and uncorked her bottle of rum, smiling crookedly. This wasn't the first time she'd gotten this question. Unlike some female members of the Third Race- the curvaceous Queen Titania came swiftly to mind- Puck was very slender. With her angular features, mid-range voice, and loose-fitting tunic and shirt, it was often very hard for those who didn't know her to guess her gender. "I'm a lass," she replied. "But as I am a shapeshifter, the point is generally moot."
Teague looked from the slender faerie to the bottle in his hand. "I need a bigger drink," he said.
Puck chuckled and conjured a second bottle for him. "But Jack is male," she added, grinning.
"Bloody well hope so!" Teague took a long drink. He took a second, then seemed to collect himself. "Alright, lass... tell me what ye need..."
Puck blinked, reclaiming her thoughts from the past. Teague had wrapped her branded arm in clean cloths to protect it. She looked down at it. It still hurt like almost nothing else she'd experienced in her long life, but now it would start to heal, at least.
She smiled weakly. "Thank you," she told him.
Teague shook his head and shifted so that she could lean against his side and cradle her arm. "Daft fool girl," he muttered, stroking her hair. "I warned ye what would happen if ye kept with the Company. Didn' I?"
"You did," Puck replied. She closed her eyes with a sigh, nuzzling a little at the hand he had on her hair. She'd always loved having her hair played with. "You told me so."
"Aye. Now... what are ye gonna do, lass? Beckett won't just let ye go, not after what happened..." He frowned and looked down at her. "Did he see ye?"
She grimaced, and nodded, prompting several colorful curses from her companion. "But if he tries to tell anyone that Jack Sparrow turned into a hobgoblin that tried to claw his face off, they'll say he's gone mad. I think I'm safe for now. As for what I'm going to do..." She looked down at her arm. "Jack's been branded a pirate. I think it's time for him to follow in his father's footsteps and become one himself."
"Tsn't what I would have wanted for ye..." Teague began, then fell quiet. There weren't many alternatives, now that Jack was branded as a pirate.
"I know it's not," she replied. "But it's what he can do now, and I did promise you a few more decades as Jack at least. I'll get a ship, say I escaped Beckett..."
Now that had potential. What better way to increase Jack's reputation than a dramatic escape from the hands of the East India Company? After all, part of her goal was to win a reputation...
"Long as ye aren' with the Company anymore," Teague said firmly. "I won't have ye risking yerself against them again, lass."
"I won't, Edward," she said. "I won't risk Jack again that way."
"Tsn't just Jack I'm worried about." He shook his head, sighing wearily. "Yer nearly as good as me own daughter, Puck."
Puck looked up at him, startled. She couldn't remember the last time someone had actually been protective of her, much less would want to think of viewing a mischievous little faerie like her as a daughter. It was odd to think that he would see her as such. At the same time, though, it left a strangely warm spot in her chest. She considered the feeling for a minute, and decided she liked it.
"I promise to try and stay out of the Company's way," she said. Grinning, she added, in a loose mimicry of Jack's voice, "Dad."
Teague looked down at her, and laughed.