From Bad to Worst (A Twist of Fate)
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Disney.
"The Crown served me well and now make way for Tortuga!"
Barbossa's booming voice rang throughout the Revenge, even to the deck below where his two lieutenants were recovering from their injuries. It was what they had feared, that their captain would go back to his old ways of piracy. It was no secret that he was a pirate lord or that there was a reward of ten thousand guineas on his head for the crimes he had committed around the world. King George had erased those crimes with the Letters of Marque but now it was clear what he was up to.
Andrew Gillette lay on his stomach in bed to better allow the nasty cut across his back to heal. During the fight at the Fountain of Youth, someone had shoved him between Blackbeard and Barbossa, Blackbeard's sword slicing into his back. The sudden sharp pain had made him see stars and his knees had given way, falling forward onto his captain. But Barbossa had just shoved him out of the way onto the ground that had been covered in several inches of water. Luckily, he had partly landed on a rock so he had not drowned. The pain shooting through him had been enough to keep him lying still. Now he turned to his best friend who shared the room with him, anxiety filling his stomach. "What are we going to do? It sounds like he's going back to being a pirate."
"I don't know, Andrew. It's the Admiralty that put us in this position, a position we shouldn't have been in at all." Theodore Groves replied, worry clear in his voice. During the battle, he had been shot in the shoulder by the Spanish, the sudden impact knocking him right off of his feet and he had tumbled down onto the rocks. Luckily, it had been a clean shot and the bullet had gone right through him. Still, his shoulder ached and he tried not to move his arm unless he had to. Thankfully, it was starting to heal and no signs of infection were present.
"But I don't want to be hung or to go around robbing good honest people." Andrew just couldn't imagine himself as a pirate, not after all of the years he had spent in the Royal Navy. Pirates were cold blooded and only cared about themselves. Nor did they care who they hurt in the process of acquiring wealth without earning it: men, woman or even children. "I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I were…"
"Pirates don't have a conscious." Theo knew the only pirate that wasn't a murderer was Jack Sparrow, but he was the exception to the rule. Still, he couldn't help admiring the man and the things that he did, like those amazing escapes. How did he do it?
"But what are we going to do? Barbossa will expect us to keep following his orders, otherwise surely he would have left us behind."
Theo sighed, knowing that Andrew expected him to come up with a solution, mainly because he had a higher rank. "We'll stay calm and let our injuries heal. Eat as much fruit as you can, as I think it helps with the healing."
It was no secret that Barbossa had brought a ton of fresh fruit onto the Revenge before setting sail. Free fruit was always good and he had been generous, putting a fair amount of it in their room for snacking on.
Andrew picked up an orange from the bowl between their beds and started chewing on it. "And then what?"
"Maybe he'll let us off the ship in Tortuga and we can take it from there." Theo improvised on the spot as he reached for an orange with his good arm. "I'd imagine ships besides pirates must make port there."
Andrew scowled at the mere idea of setting foot on Tortuga's shores. "The place must be awful, a real slum. We'd be lucky if we don't get our throats slit or worse!"
Theo laughed. "What could be worse than slit throats?"
"I have no idea," Andrew admitted. "But I'm sure the pirates do."
A week passed as the Revenge sailed and their injuries healed. The gun shot was just a dull ache and the sword slash tender, but both had healed rather quickly due to the fresh fruit filled with vitamin C. They had resumed their duties just that day, standing on the aft deck near where Barbossa had set up a table for his lunch of sliced green apples and rum. Soon Tortuga came into sight and they were shouting orders to pull up at the nearest empty pier.
They had both been shocked earlier when they had first come up on deck and seeing the Queen Anne's Revenge, as they had never seen her before. For one, she was a lot larger than they had thought. And two, she looked every inch the pirate ship she was with tattered sails the color of dried blood. A prominent pirate flag flung from the bow of the ship, a skull with crossed swords. A much larger version fluttered from the tallest mast and they often caught Barbossa admiring it from where he sat. They both suspected it was the captain's personal flag but kept their mouths shut on the matter and Barbossa hadn't brought it up, either.
"Gents," Barbossa said to them once the ship was secured to the pier. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of golden doubloons. The gold sparkled in the sunlight as he counted them out, giving each one a generous amount of coins. "Ye've both served me well and been loyal, so ye have earned a few days off in Tortuga. Go and enjoy yerselves."
Andrew stared at the coins, wondering where Barbossa had gotten them from. While stuck in bed, he had heard whispered rumors that there was a hold full of treasure on the ship; bounty Blackbeard had collected and Barbossa had claimed as his own. If it was true or not, he had no idea but the thought that the coins were blood money made him uneasy.
"In Tortuga, Sir?" Theo asked innocently as he accepted his share of the doubloons, hoping he didn't appear too eager to get off of the ship.
"Aye. There be no finer place than Tortuga." Barbossa pointed down to the main deck where all of the crew was happily pushing and shoving their way down the gangplank, their pay clutched in their hands. "See, they know it be a grand place."
"But it's a pirate port." Theo stated firmly.
Andrew peered over the railing at the loud raucous coming from the ramshackle buildings, biting his bottom lip nervously. It looked far worse than he had ever imagined. They wouldn't last five minutes in the wild mix of pirates, thieves and cutthroats…
The captain must have sensed his nervousness for he grinned in a friendly fashion, revealing several golden teeth. "Don't worry, Lieutenant. Tortuga welcomes everyone with open arms, as we pirates are not so fussy. If ye don't start a fight with them, they won't bother ye."
"Really?" Theo asked, genuinely surprised.
"Yer not the first Navy officers to visit." Barbossa said mysteriously with a wide grin. "Now go on and enjoy yerselves, but remember I expect ye back here in three days. If yer not, I'll come alooking and ye won't like that."
"But…" Andrew stared at his captain with a confused expression on his face. "How will you know where to look?"
"I'll start with the pig pens." Barbossa simply stated.
"Pig pens?" Andrew repeated.
"Aye. It's where they throw you Navy fellows that's been in fights."
Andrew shook his head. "Tortuga is even odder than I thought!"
"Come on." Theo gripped Andrew by the wrist and pulled him down the stairs towards the plank that led onto shore. They walked across the plank and stepped onto the solid ground, pausing to look about. There were drunken men everywhere. Some lay in doorways, some balancing on top of barrels and others stumbling down the dirt streets. Most clutched bottles of rum or else tankards in their hands. Lowering his voice, he spoke gently so only Andrew could hear him. "I don't think he suspects anything…"
"Why should he?" Andrew grimaced at the openly displayed drunkenness of the men and the ragged state of their clothing. It was indecent to say the least. The breeze shifted then and he wrinkled his nose in obvious disgust, as it carried with it the horrible strong scents of unbathed bodies, strong rum and other unpleasant odors, like that of chamber pots. "I doubt if we'd find anything other than pirate ships here. Look at the state of this place…."
"We have to try." Theo insisted as he boldly stepped forward and started walking down the street, keeping an eye out for puddles of vomit. It was clear from the evidence that most of the men drank until they were sick, something he did not approve of at all. "Besides, the captain said we weren't the first to visit."
"He meant people that were kicked out I'm sure." Andrew hurried to keep up with Theo, his brown eyes scanning the crowds nervously. All of the drunks were armed and that made him uneasy, as the two stood out in their clean and neatly pressed Royal Navy uniforms and powdered wigs. He imagined it was like a peacock amidst chickens. They just didn't fit in very well at all.
Two women appeared from the side of the street, smiling at them as they sashayed over. The first had brilliant red curly hair and wore a matching red dress that was low cut in the front, revealing the curves of her bosom. She boldly wrapped her arms around Andrew's neck, pressing her body against his side. "Do you want some company while yer in port?"
Andrew's brown eyes grew wide and he fidgeted nervously at her closeness. "Please, Miss, I don't even know you!"
"Ye can get to know me…" Scarlett suggested as she blew hot air into his ear. "There's no need to be shy. I certainly won't be."
His face turned as red as her hair.
Giselle, meanwhile, had attached herself to Theo's neck and smiled up at him sweetly. Her blonde locks were pulled back from her face, except for a few fine ringlets. Her dress was a sunny shade of yellow and was equally low cut, offering a nice view of her assets. "I'll keep you company if ye like…"
"No thank you, Miss."
She fluttered her long lashes at him, pouting a bit. "There's no need to be so formal. I don't bite, you know, unless you want me to?"
"No!" Theo exclaimed truly shocked as he pulled her hands off of himself and rapidly put a few steps in between them. "That would not be proper."
Andrew squirmed free of Scarlett's grasp as he hurried to his best friend's side, his powdered wig askew and the bicorn crooked. If anything, his face was redder now, more akin to a beet than a tomato.
"Well, you know where to find me later." Giselle called to them with a friendly wave of her pale hand. "I'll show you both a good time."
"They'll be back." Scarlett told the blonde with knowing words. "They always act so proper once they arrive and soon degenerate once they drink enough rum."
"So true…" The blonde agreed as she walked up to another pirate that was heading her way.
The two lieutenants quickly fled down the street.
"I wasn't expecting that horror! It's shameful!" Andrew cried as he straightened out his wig and hat. "She just attached herself like a leech!"
"Well, this is Tortuga…" Theo reminded him as he scanned the nearby port for a decent looking ship. Unfortunately, all of the ones in view were flying pirate flags. He reminded himself that Tortuga was rather large and that only a portion of the ships were located in this area. "Now that we know about it, we can avoid them as they approach us."
"If we're fast enough…"
They approached a pub that had a decent smell coming out of it and Theo paused, gazing at the establishment. The outside was in better repair than some of the places they had passed and he hoped that might mean it was relatively clean on the inside. "Shall we go in and have a meal?"
"Here?" Andrew looked shocked.
"We can't find a ship on an empty stomach."
"All right," Andrew sighed as he heard his stomach rumble from hunger. "But don't blame me if we get poisoned!"
"I doubt if a pub would poison their patrons." Theo pushed open the door and walked into the somewhat dimly lit room. The scent of roasting meat and cooked vegetables was much stronger inside and he could feel his mouth water. After the long voyage on the HMS Providence and then the short trip on the Revenge, he was tired of eating ship's rations of salted beef, tiny slivers of cheese so small he could barely see them and ship's biscuits so hard they'd break his teeth before he could actually eat them. Of course, by the time they had crossed the Atlantic to reach White Cap Bay, the meat had turned greenish and the biscuits had been infested with worms. "Some fresh food would be greatly appreciated."
"But if they did, they could rob them afterwards." Andrew pointed out, his eyes darting about fearfully. "Or did you forget this place is full of pirates? How can you be so relaxed?"
"Well, they haven't done us anything yet. I think they're all too drunk to even see our uniforms." Theo paused just inside and gazed about the pub, curious. He had never been inside a real pirate pub and was unsure what to expect, but it looked just like the ones in London. Candles lit the room, revealing many tables. The place was clearly popular with the locals as most of the tables were occupied by pirates or other lowlifes. Women dressed similar to Scarlett and Giselle clung to men and smiled at them, often laughing at things they said. "Let's go see if we can find a table."
Theo made his way confidently through the crowd, his friend hot on his heels. They found an empty table that looked somewhat clean near the corner and he seated himself, Andrew joining him. Soon a waitress appeared and Theo ordered two meals of whatever they were cooking that day, which turned out to be mutton with vegetables and the local cheese.
"You see, this place isn't so bad…" Theo commented as he leaned back in his chair and watched the other patrons. "It seems peaceful enough, don't you think?"
Andrew's eyes, however, had gone wide and his face pale.
"What?" Theo asked as he leaned forward to look at his friend with concern.
Andrew just pointed at something behind Theo.
Turning in his seat, Theo quickly spotted what the other lieutenant had been pointing at: someone seated in the corner that wore the dark blue of a Royal Navy coat, one with golden stripes at the cuffs. And not just the lowly stripes of a lieutenant or even a captain, but the stripes of an admiral! A long white ponytail hung down the person's back and a bicorn rested on his head. Excitement bubbled in Theo's stomach as he realized what this meant. He shifted in his seat again to face his friend and leaned forward, gripping Andrew's hand. "Do you know what this means? We're saved! It's an admiral! He can transfer us off of the Revenge to another ship and we'll be long gone before the three days are up!"
"But…what's he doing here, in Tortuga?" Andrew looked puzzled as well as relieved. "Navy ships don't come here, do they?"
"Maybe he likes the food? Who knows?" Theo stood and smoothed his uniform down and straightened his wig, as he wanted to make sure he looked like a proper lieutenant commander when he introduced himself. "Come on, let's go talk to him."
Andrew took a deep breath, standing and followed him over to the man who had his back to them. He couldn't help feeling nervous, as lowly lieutenants didn't normally rub elbows with the Admiralty.
"Excuse me, Admiral, but may we have a bit of your time?" Theo asked politely as he stood across from where the man was eating a bowl of mutton stew.
A pair of green eyes lifted from the stew to look at him and recognition dawned in them. "Theo? Andrew?"
"James?" Theo realized the admiral was none other than their old friend and commander, James Norrington. "But what are you doing here in Tortuga?"
"I could ask the same of you." James stated as he waved at them to take a seat at his table. He picked up a bottle of rum and took a swallow. "Needless to say, I am here and it is a rather long story."
"Do you have a ship?" Andrew asked hopefully. "We seem to be in a rather delicate spot, with our privateer captain going pirate. Needless to say, I don't have any desires to go pirating…"
James smiled. "Yes, of course I have a ship. She's in port here…"
The two lieutenants sighed in relief.
"Just out of curiosity, who is your captain?"
"Barbossa." Theo quickly answered. "The Admiralty and the King made him the captain of the HMS Providence and we sailed to White Cap Bay to find the Fountain of Youth. But the ship was sunk and he took the Queen Anne's Revenge after killing Blackbeard. We then came here and he gave us three days of leave to enjoy the wonders of Tortuga."
James laughed, his green eyes sparkling with mirth. "Hector Barbossa, the Pirate Lord of the Caspian Sea, is your captain?"
"He's a bit … intense." Andrew admitted. "I can't count the number of times I had to jump out of his way."
Their food arrived, the waitress easily seeing they had moved to another table.
Theo dug into his meal, pleased at the obvious freshness. "The last we heard you were on the Flying Dutchman. What happened after that?"
"Do you recall Miss Swann, my former fiancée?" James asked as he smeared butter on a roll.
"Yes, of course. How could we not?" Theo replied politely, remembering how much James had loved her.
Andrew frowned, remembering how she had turned James down and had humiliated him in front of everyone.
"Well, I met her again on the Dutchman of all places. Soon after that we were wed."
The bit of unexpected news surprised them and they both heartily congratulated him. The three finished their meals and after paying, they left the pub.
"So, where's your ship?" Andrew asked as he eyed the drunken people about him uneasily. "We need to get out of here before Barbossa realizes we're gone. Can you believe he actually expects us to return and work for him, to turn pirate? He was even saying how loyal we were!"
James smiled again, humor lighting his green eyes.
Theo looked at his old friend curiously, as he had never seen James smile or laugh so much. It was very peculiar, but maybe he was just in a good mood because Elizabeth had finally married him?
They followed James down to the docks, to an area further away from where the Revenge lay moored. The tall masts of ships stabbed the air as they gently bobbed up and down on the gentle waves. The two eagerly scanned the ships ahead, trying to pick out one that might be a Royal Navy one but grew confused when they didn't see one. There were just the regular pirate ships plus one very odd one, a Chinese junk with bright orange sails and a turquoise hall.
And to their utter astonishment, James stopped in front of the Chinese Junk.
"Well, gentlemen, this is the Empress."
"Uh…did you take it as a prize?" Theo guessed, knowing that often the British Navy claimed ships they had captured in fights and later made them part of the fleet. But a Chinese junk? Did they even claim those? Who would know how to sail them?
Andrew just gawked up at it with an open mouth.
Footfalls on deck floated to their ears and Elizabeth appeared at the top of the gang plank. Her long brown tresses blew freely in the wind and she wore a white shirt with puffy sleeves, a vest over it. A sword hung from her side and a pistol was tucked in her belt. And she was still wearing men's breeches. She spotted them and came down the gangplank to join them. "Are you here to join the crew? Welcome aboard."
"Uhhh…" Andrew said a bit uncertainly, still eyeing the unusual looking ship.
"Of course they are." James happily said as he gripped his wife's hand and pulled her close, wrapping his arm about her shoulders. "I'm sure you remember my wife? May I introduce you to Mrs. Elizabeth Norrington."
"Captain…" Elizabeth quickly added.
"Do excuse me," James smiled again. "Captain Elizabeth Norrington."
"But…" Andrew stared at her clearly confused. "You're a girl. How can you be a captain?"
"Because the Empress is my ship." Elizabeth explained. "And women can be captains just as well as men."
"They can?" Andrew asked, surprised by the news. "I never knew that."
"But when did you join the Royal Navy?" Theo asked her as an uneasy feeling settled in his gut. "I mean, you start out as a midshipman and then a lieutenant…"
"Oh, this is a pirate ship." Elizabeth informed them. "Didn't James tell you? I'm the King of the Pirates."
Andrew groaned. "Now we'll never get away from Barbossa!"
"Oh, is Hector in port?" Elizabeth asked, surprised. "We'll have to go see him later."
James let his wife go and went behind the two officers, shoving them up the gangplank onto the Empress. "The Empress needs some officers. I was resigned to accept some lowlifes but you two will do much better. I am very pleased."
"But when did you turn pirate?" Theo asked him once he was standing on the ship's deck. From this position he could see that the sails were strengthened with bamboo poles. The ship was also very colorful, the hull painted a brilliant blue and more bright colors surrounded the oval frame to the captain's cabin. Bright pennants waved overhead to bring the ship good fortune. "You spent your entire career chasing and hanging pirates!"
"Yes, well, that was before I married Elizabeth." James admitted as he glanced in her direction. "She apparently knows a lot of pirates and I can't really hang any of them until I check with her first, less it's someone she knows. It's a tad … annoying really."
Elizabeth walked up the plank and stopped in front of her two new officers. She knew they were James friends from Fort Charles, of course, as she recognized them. "Do you know how to navigate?"
"Yes, of course we do." Theo replied automatically.
"Good, because I don't. You can take care of that." She stated firmly, looking pleased that she had solved one sticky problem already.
The two looked rather shocked and stared at James, who only smiled at them some more. Surely he was humoring her with this captain idea, as how could a governor's daughter know how to captain a ship?
"May I enquire if you have any command experience, Captain?" Theo asked uncertainly. He all too easily recalled how Lord Beckett had frozen up at a delicate moment and had never issued any orders and the ship had been destroyed. He had been lucky to survive that day.
"Of course I do. I led the Pearl at the Battle of the Maelstrom." Elizabeth answered truthfully. "It was my duty as King to lead the battle and make decisions."
Andrew and Theo glanced at each other uncertainly. It seemed no matter where they went they ended up being pirates! How in the world had that happened? And now James expected them to stay aboard and be part of his crew.
Of course, they might be better off working for Barbossa. At least he knew what he was doing and had years of experience. And who had ever heard of a captain that couldn't navigate?
The two sighed. It was a pirate's life for them, obviously, but the thought still left both feeling very uncomfortable as if their world had flipped upside-down. How could James and Elizabeth be pirates?
Then an Asian man appeared from below decks wearing a battered straw hat, a studded leather shirt, tattered pants that ended at his knees and a pair of sandals. A long black braid hung down his back. His eyes fastened on them and he rapidly approached. "You new officers? Good. Me leave now for Singapore. No profit working for Captain Elizabeth."
The two exchanged a glance, unsure what he meant by the no profit statement.
The man turned and headed towards the gang plank, muttering to himself. "How you supposed to be pirate if not allowed rob people?"
"Goodbye, Tai Haung!" Elizabeth called to him.
"So…" Theo had heard what the man had muttered as he was leaving and it had given him some hope. "You don't actually go pirating then?"
"Of course not." James huffed. "We still have standards."
"So it's a pirate ship that never goes pirating?" Andrew looked even more confused than before. "So what do you do?"
Elizabeth seemed to think about it for a moment. What had Pintel told her once? Her pirate friend had phrased it perfectly. "We find unclaimed property of a valuable nature."
James laughed, knowing she was thinking of how the Chest of Davy Jones had just been sitting there on the island for them to dig up. And since the chest had been real, she thought that pirates hid their treasure on islands or in caves or silly places like that. He didn't believe it for a moment, as he knew how pirates really behaved. They spent it as soon as they got it. Why would they stash it away somewhere? And one needed money to run a ship, to buy the supplies, to pay the men and to keep it in repairs. Coins didn't just fall out of the sky or wait under the sand. "I believe what my wife is saying is that she wants to go on a little adventure, dig up treasure on a beach, that sort of thing. You know, the 'typical' pirate adventure."
"But pirates really don't hide their loot on a beach." Andrew stated. "That's just a story."
"No, they hide it in caves." Elizabeth replied firmly as if she knew it for a fact.
The three men doubted that.
James smiled at her again and grabbed his two friends, hauling them away a bit to the side. Once they were at a proper distance, he stopped near the mast and turned to them. "Do humor her? I'm sure after some time she'll grow tired of being a captain and all that it entails, not to mention the lack of treasure to discover. It's no secret that Sparrow has filled her head with all sorts of wild tales of adventure."
"Like swinging on palm trees…" Theo said as he recalled how Sparrow had swung through the air wildly, which he had taken for the signal. Then he had dropped coconuts onto the Spanish and tied them all up with the rope, single-handed at that.
"Don't give her any ideas." James frowned, realizing that Sparrow was apparently still alive somewhere and up to his antics.
"I admit he is very entertaining to watch. Do you know how he does it, the things he does? I still haven't figured it out yet." Theo looked hopefully at James, but then realized that the older man didn't exactly approve.
"You keep thinking like that, you'll end up a pirate. How do you think Elizabeth got into this mess? Now she's the Pirate Lord of the South China Sea and the King of the Pirates. Since I love her, I have to accept that but it's not easy. Old habits are hard to break. I have to be polite and social with her 'friends' when I would love to string them up in a noose."
The two nodded their understanding. They had to accept Barbossa as their captain fully knowing exactly who he was and they had done so without a hitch. How had they gotten into this pirate problem?
"Is she really the captain?" Andrew asked, a bit of worry in his voice. "I mean, you're going to be giving the orders, right?"
"Yes, Elizabeth is the captain and you'll have to accept that." James had admired her spirit and strength while she had commanded the Battle at the Maelstrom. Her speech about freedom had been inspiring and she had had a fire inside of her, one that had been blazing hot. He thought about that now, the determination in her brown eyes and how proudly she had balanced on the rail of the Pearl while clinging to the ratline with one hand. He had sensed that spark in her before, of course and it was why he had loved her so, but now as the Pirate King it was a full raging bonfire. "I do admit her actions at the battle had impressed me. She may lack some skills of a seaman, like the knowledge of navigating, but she knows how to command and make decisions. Even Barbossa followed her orders."
"It sounds as if she's a better captain than we had thought." Theo said thoughtfully as his brown eyes drifted to where she was standing talking to two scruffy looking crew members, deck hands by the look of it. "And surely there's a reason why the pirates made her the king."
"So you'll sign on then?" James asked hopefully as he knew he'd be unlikely to find any other decent officers in Tortuga.
"Of course. If we could take orders from Barbossa, I'm sure we can accept orders from your wife."
James grinned, pleased. It was good to have his two best friends back again.
Together, Theo and Andrew went to properly introduce themselves to their new captain.