Darker Heart 5

1750

Angelica stepped out of the long boat onto the sand of the unnamed island, hoping that it was the right one. There were a lot of nameless islands here in the chain and she didn't have time to go searching them all. It was incredible fortune on her part that one of the other ships in her father's fleet had been the one to find her after being marooned by Jack. After telling them the tale, they had been more than willing to help her restore Blackbeard to life and get the Revenge back. Thanks to Blackbeard, they were all filthy rich and very successful pirates. So they were willing to do a bit more than pirates ordinarily would. "This had better be the right island. I don't have time to waste."

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" The Quartermaster, named Menace, asked her. "That thing was a bloody hazard and after all of this time, I doubt there would be much left…"

"I don't need much for the dark magic to work…" Angelica stated with confidence as she strode down the sandy beach, a noxious stench already filling her nose. It was worst then dead fish left on a hot deck or a corpse left to rot in an enclosed room, both of which she had had the pleasure of finding over the years. The awful stink gave her hope and she quickened her pace, her boots digging into the deep sand with ease. A dark shape appeared then, hulking and with myriad birds flying around it. "There it is!"

Menace pulled a cloth over his nose and mouth, securing it in place. "That thing stinks! Let it be, Angelica! The sea was not safe while it was alive and everyone was glad when it died! And what if you can't control it? What if it sinks our ship?"

"It won't!" She promised as she walked up to the giant shape on the sand. "It will become a zombie under my control, just like my father's zombies obeyed him. It will do whatever I tell it to do."

Menace stopped several feet away from the rotting corpse, not willing to get any closer. "But it's not a human. It doesn't have a human's intelligence. How will it know who to attack?"

"But it was smart. I have studied its smaller cousins and they are very intelligent. They know how to think, plan and be clever. You may not believe that, amigo, but it is true." Angelica pointed out as she walked alongside it, studying what was left. There was the big cuttlebone that made up the majority of the creature's head. To her delight, some of the outer skin was still there, mummified to hard dried leather from the sun. Other bits of it was there, too, the body simply too large even for the countless sea birds to consume. Chunks were missing almost everywhere, proof that things had been feasting on its dead body. She had expected it to be wet and slimy, decayed but instead it looked hard and dry as an old boot sole. Boldly, she kicked the nearest part of it with her boot and was delighted to see it stayed together. "All I need to do is a restoration spell and then make it a zombie. It will then do whatever I wish it to."

Menace stood there silently, frowning and looking anxious.

Setting the materials she had brought with her down onto the hot sand, Angelica got to work. A smile twisted her lips as she imagined the moment the monstrosity would awaken and push itself back into the waves. Then it would be hers to command.

Nothing could stop her then, not even that One-Legged Man.

-000

The Revenge emerged from the portal into a wildly heaving sea, hard slanting rain striking the deck with the sharp sting of tiny ice pellets. The ship leaped upward like shot from a pistol and tilted sideways at a crazy angle. Not expecting the brutal shift from a relatively calm sea to a raging storm, Madame Red felt herself falling backward as she lost her balance due to the tilting deck. A moment of red hot fear flashed through her, her chest feeling constricted, as she imagined falling into the sea and drowning. Her back struck the deck then, momentarily knocking the air out of her. The next second Grell fell atop of her, as he seemed to suffer horrible balance in his human form, his added weight crushing her a bit. The deck seemed to tilt more then and she felt herself starting to slide across the now soaking wet boards. Wrapping her arms about Grell's narrow waist, she clung to him tightly as they slid over the deck and towards the side rail.

Lightning flashed overhead, momentarily lighting the scene with its multi-forked tongue of power. Barbossa stumbled backwards several rapid steps, his wooden peg thumping loudly on the wet deck. Somehow he caught his balance then and headed up the slanting deck towards the ship's wheel.

Eerie laughter, as if from some demented specter, floated through the storm and it took Madame Red some time before she realized it was the captain making the creepy sound. To her, it seemed as if they were about to die in what surely must be a hurricane and why in the world was he laughing?

The table tilted, its contents sliding off and falling to the deck with a loud clatter. The teapot, cups and saucers smashed into sharp ceramic bits and fruit went tumbling everywhere. The other things fell off the table then, the now soaking wet maps getting caught up around the table's leg by the gushing wind and the odd grey powder turning into wet sludge on the deck as the snuff box fell open, spilling its prize.

The railing was coming up rapidly, its wooden spokes growing larger and larger as they slid towards it. Between the spaces she could see the tossing grey water. The waves seemed to have no idea which way they were supposed to go and appeared to be fighting each other in white capped madness, bits of cold spray often shooting high into the air. It was without a doubt the most frightening thing she had ever seen. She braced herself for impact, knowing it was going to hurt and just hoped that the boards they were rushing at would hold. At the last second before impact, she had enough sense to snatch her hands away so they wouldn't get crushed between the hard rails and Grell's back. As a doctor, the thing she needed the most was her hands and she certainly couldn't afford to damage them. As a Shinigami, she figured he could most likely take the injury better than she could anyway. They hit the rail then, Grell moaning at the impact, but to her relief the wood held.

The Sweet Sensations was faring no better and was doing worse in the violent sea. The ship was picked up and carried sideways rapidly, like a bit of cork on a wave. The next moment it was slammed into the side of the Queen Anne's Revenge, the harsh impact knocking anyone still on their feet off of them. Crew members fell screaming into the sea and Ciel almost fell overboard himself, but Sebastian managed to grab him by his ankle, the young earl hanging upside-down for long heart-stopping seconds as he stared at the angry grey waves. A whitecap flashed upward, dunking his face in the cold saltwater and almost made him choke as he struggled for air. Then the demon yanked him back up onto the deck, pressing his small body securely against his side.

And then Sebastian used his demon powers to leap high upwards, easily clearing the tall railing on the Queen Anne's Revenge and landing nimbly on the slanted deck. His feet slid out from under him momentarily and he found himself sliding on the wet surface that had rivulets of water streaming across it. The captain's table was before him and he realized in a flash it was bolted securely to the floor. He reached out and caught a leg in his hand and pulled them towards it, shoving Ciel under the piece of furniture. Seeing the table leg, Ciel clung to it gratefully as the ship began to tilt back the other way.

Ciel's dark blue hair was soaking wet and he had long lost his top hat. He could feel water running down his face and he used a free hand to shove his wet bangs out of his single blue eye so he could see something, anything, in this madness. Wrapping his thin legs about the strong table leg, he clung to it for his very life. Looking up, he could see his demon crouching under the table, his eyes glowing a sinister shade of red in the darkness of the storm.

"Wait here." Sebastian said to him. "Do not let go of the table."

As the ship tilted the other way, Madame Red felt them began to slide again. The wet deck was as slippery as ice, even if the wood itself was rough from years of use and she felt them pick up speed all too quickly. She resisted the urge to shriek, as it was not ladylike at all or maybe she was just too scared to do so. Grell however had no such qualms and was making enough noise for the both of them, his howls almost drowning out the loud crashes of thunder and the crash of the waves.

She saw two burning bits of coals then and as first thought they were flames, but then realized they were eyes. They were red as blood and had long slit-like pupils, akin to a snake. Lightning flashed, brightening the deck to daytime standards for a brief moment and in that second she had seen Sebastian crouched under the captain's table. His hair had been soaked and pasted to his forehead, his skin the usual pale it always was but his eyes … they had been red like flames!

The sight startled her, as she had momentarily forgotten that Grell had suspected Sebastian of being a demon. Seeing those eyes, it had been more than enough proof.

They were sliding past the table rapidly, the deck tilting further and a white hand flashed out. It got a grip on Grell's long dark brown ponytail and the next moment they were both yanked under the table, Sebastian's strong arm encircling both of their waists. The demon's other hand was securely wrapped around one of the table legs.

"Oh, Sebas-chan, you saved me!" Grell cried happily to the demon that was now pressed against his back.

"Of course," Sebastian replied as he ignored the nickname he had just been called. "A butler who cannot save those under his charge is not worth his salt."

Curtains of water fell around them, the streams cascading off of the table above them. The ship continued to tilt this way and that but slowly the storm began to lessen in its intensity. The thunder faded away to nothing, the waves grew calm and the sky began to brighten. A ray of sunlight peaked out from behind the scattering clouds, throwing shadows onto the deck.

Slowly Madame Red let go of Grell's waist and crawled out from underneath the table. To her amazement the sky was already a crystal blue and the water was now the most amazing shade of blue-green she had ever seen. A blazing hot sun beat down on her and she could feel the strands of her short red hair already drying. She heard the loud thump of the captain's peg and slowly turned to face him. To her utter amazement, he had somehow kept his big round feathered hat throughout the storm and she couldn't figure how he had done that, as surely it would have been blown away by the gusting winds!

"Welcome to the Caribbean, Doctor." Barbossa said with a wide grin. "Nasty little squall, err?"

"A squall? You mean that wasn't a hurricane?" She asked stupidly as she stared at him.

"Nay, it was just a squall. It took us by surprise is all…a real hurricane would be a hundred times worst." Barbossa replied as he took in the mess of broken teapot and soaking wet maps on the floor. It didn't seem to bother him any though as he ignored it, instead focusing on his new guests. He watched with narrowed cold eyes as Ciel and Sebastian crawled out from underneath the table, the demon helping Grell to his feet. Barbossa's hand inched to the hilt of his sword, his fingers wrapping around it but not drawing it forth yet. "And who might ye be? Yer be mighty reckless taking to the open sea in a thing like that…"

"I am Earl Ciel Phantomhive, Watchdog to the Queen. I order you to let my aunt and her butler go or you'll be sorry!" Ciel threatened, his single blue eye flashing with anger at the man before him.

"Oh, is that so?" Barbossa said as he drew his sword, the metal scraping loudly on the scabbard as it came free. He held it freely in his right hand, the grayish metal reflecting the now bright sunlight. His officers, Gillette and Groves, joined him; one on either side of their captain; their left arms shoving their officer coats out of the way so they could draw their swords quickly if need be. "And where be your sword, young Earl? Are ye going to fight me with words perhaps?"

"I have Sebastian." Ciel replied, indicating his ever loyal butler. "I assure you he has defeated many others, so I suggest you cooperate with my wishes."

"And where are ye going to go?" Barbossa asked the young boy. "Perhaps ye be planning on growing wings and flying to the nearest isle, aye?"

Ciel gazed at the pirate, clearly confused. "What do you mean?"

"Your ship sunk." Barbossa simply stated. "And I don't take kindly to passengers on the Revenge. If ye want to stay aboard and not feed the hungry mermaids, then you'll join me crew and work."

"What?" Ciel ran to the side rail and peered into the water, arriving just in time to see the top of the mast of the Sweet Sensations disappearing under the blue-green waves. "Sebastian, our ship sank! What are we going to do?"

"I did tell you, My Lord, it was unlikely to ride out a storm." The demon reminded his young charge. "We may be forced to accept his employment offer."

Ciel frowned, apparently not exactly liking the idea. "Very well, but I wish to know why you kidnapped my aunt."

"Because I needed a doctor and my dark magic spell I cast led me to her. Do ye think I like having the ship's carpenter or perhaps the cook do surgeries? I amputated me own leg last time and I'll not be doing that again." Barbossa replied truthfully, grimacing at the memory. "And I assure you she will be paid handsomely in gold. The doctor is always the third highest paid person upon the ship, right behind me and me officers."

Madame Red stared at him utterly astonished. "You amputated your own leg? How in the world did you survive? The pain alone can kill a person and then you'd have to find the major arteries to tie off…"

"I did what needed done. That and I'm a survivor. Blackbeard paid for it with his life," Barbossa smiled evilly as he waved the sword in the air. "I ran my poisoned blade right through him."

"But…" Ciel said as he looked at the scruffy pirate captain in confusion. "I thought you were Blackbeard!"

"Nay, child, I not be he. If I were, you'd be locked in that cage hanging off of the rear of the ship and being roasted alive. It's what he used to do." Barbossa explained sourly. "He enjoyed torturing people, burning them alive for his own pleasure. And he didn't honor the Code, the Pirate Code that pirates live by. As one of the nine Pirate Lords, I dispensed justice and got my revenge. Hector Barbossa is my name."

There was silence for a moment.

Madame Red still couldn't understand how in the world he could have survived amputating his own leg. It just didn't make sense to her, no matter how she looked at it. The pain would have surely knocked him out and then he would have bled to death rapidly. And how could he have cut through his own leg bone? Did he actually have the nerve and mettle to saw through the bone while in some odd sitting position, blood spraying everywhere?

"And before ye be thinking of doing any other foolish thing, welcome to 1750! The world ye knew is just a distant memory now and I not be likely to be going back there any time soon, unless I have to."

"Portals can't take you back in time, can they?" Ciel asked his demon. "Surely he is jesting about the year."

"Not that I am aware of…" Sebastian replied somewhat uncertainly. "But I was not aware that humans could open portals, either. Perhaps they can do things I'm unaware of. There is also the fact I am more familiar with Europe, as I've never traveled to the New World before…"

"I care naught if you believe the year or not; just that you do your jobs." Barbossa said as he shifted his gaze to the oddly dressed demon. "And exactly what are ye supposed to be in that getup? That is, what can ye do?"

"I am merely one hell of a butler." Sebastian replied with a smile and a polite bow. "I can do almost anything you desire: cook, clean, make perfect tea, serve meals, anything really…"

"Fine. You can cook then and serve me and me officers." Barbossa decided as he put his sword away. He then pointed at Ciel. "And he can help you. The two of you can start by cleaning up this mess on me poop deck. And then you can bring us our lunch. The galley is down below."

Sebastian bent and started to gather the broken pieces of the teapot, cups and saucers, obedient as ever.

Ciel grimaced in disgust but started to pick up some of the larger pieces himself. He suspected his demon was planning on fixing it somehow with his magic and would want all of the pieces. "How degrading. Earls are not meant to do this stuff…"

"Be careful," Sebastian warned him. "Some of the pieces can be sharp."

Barbossa grinned as he saw the two new crew members hard at work, even if one of them was complaining a tad bit. They were all entitled to their opinions. Turning to Madame Red and Grell, he fixed his piercing blue eyes on them. "Well, Doctor, it's time for you and your assistant to start treating me crew. Lieutenant Groves will show you to the area where you'll be working. And you'll be glad to know we've stolen lots of medical supplies for you to use."

The wide grin on the captain's face made her feel sick. Stealing medical supplies, really, how low could he sink? But then she recalled the screams of the women she had murdered and realized that she was no better than he was. Dutifully she followed Groves off of the poop deck and back down into the belly of the ship, lifting her skirts on the stairs so she wouldn't trip. Touching the fine material of the dress, she was shocked to find it almost dry already, even though very little time had passed.

And it was growing hot, really hot.

She had seen drawings of the Caribbean, colored paintings of exotic palm trees and odd creatures like monkeys. She had never dreamed of actually going there but here she was. But it was said to be hot and sunny, and filled with strange tropical diseases.

To her dismay, they went down yet another flight of stairs and then headed for the front of the ship, the area the lieutenant had called 'the bow'. They passed through dark passages filled with strange barrels, boxes and things that must be the ship's supplies or cargo. There was also an area that had cages, cages big enough to hold people and seeing them gave her the chills. Shapes seem to dart past her in the darkness but she was sure she just imagined it. After living through that squall, well, her nerves were still jumping. There were lit lanterns hanging from the ceiling, but they didn't provide enough light in her opinion, not that she was scared of the dark. The night and the dark were old friends of hers; it was just the situation she was not used to yet.

Stopping, Groves opened a door and stepped aside, "Your sick room, Doctor. Your supplies are already inside."

She watched him walk away and then headed into the room, uncertain what to expect. There were several narrow cots pressed against the walls, with barely any space between them at all. The rear held some cabinets and opening one, she saw a wide assortment of medical supplies, all of it stolen. Her case of surgical tools sat upon the table and to her relief, they were all there.

The wave movement here was much more pronounced and she could hear an odd but constant sloshing sound of water against the hull. Almost unconsciously her red eyes turned to regard the shape of the room, noting it was triangular more or less. She suspected by the loud gurgling sounds that they were under the waterline and she had this uncanny fear that a leak might develop without warning. The more intelligent part of her mind insisted it was unlikely to happen, but she still thought it none the same. Placing her palm on the steady tabletop, she leaned on it for a moment due to the movement of the ship. She still wasn't exactly used to it.

She noticed a weird odor in the room, but the entire ship seemed to stink of one thing or another. Still, the smell was cloying and darted straight up her nose, making it difficult to breath. Somehow it smelled different than the sweat and stench of the deck above, the floor where their personal quarters was located. This scent was stronger, sharper and overpowering. But then, the room only seemed to have the one door and she didn't see any other form of ventilation, so maybe it just needed some airing?

"Am I supposed to help you treat humans?" Grell asked her as he looked around the small cramped space. "I'm used to taking lives, not healing…"

"The captain mentioned using carpenters and cooks as surgeons. That means he will use anyone with the ability or knowledge as a doctor." Madame Red pointed out as she thought about what the older man had said. "He knows you were helping me murder the girls, so in his eyes you have experience already."

"Experience in murdering, yes!" Grell pointed out dramatically as he waved a pale hand in the air. "I don't know anything about healing humans. When they get sick, they die and I reap them."

"I wouldn't say that so loud!" She hissed at him as she glanced towards the open door, afraid someone might overhear. "Do you want to get tossed overboard?"

"Oh heavens no! All of that salt water would ruin my perfect skin!"

"Well, then you had best pretend you're helping me treat people." Madame Red started looking into the cabinets and making a list of the supplies they had. "Did you hear the captain talking about his amputation?"

"Yes. So what about it?" Grell asked in a bored tone.

"It means we can chop people's arms and legs off of them while they're alive and conscious. The blood will fly everywhere. One of us will have to chop while the other one holds the person down on the table…"

Grell's yellow-green eyes grew wide at her words. "And they pay us to do that? Are they insane or something?"

"It's what doctors do." She simply stated as she checked what medicines she had. "But people need to get badly injured before they require an amputation, but I think injuries on a ship were common."

"Well, it still sounds like fun." The reaper grinned, his shark-like teeth appearing.

TBC...