Author: Laura H & Sal R
Rating: Overall R
Canon: AU, set post-DMC
Characters: Everyone from CotBP and DMC and also Captain Teague.
Pairings: Jack/Elizabeth - with elements of Jack/Beckett, Elizabeth/Will, Elizabeth/Norrington, and Calypso/Jones.
Disclaimer: For fun not profit
A/N: Same story, different versions. And all true.
Back in January, we set ourselves the challenge of retelling At World's End in time for the first anniversary of the movie's release this weekend. Over 100,000 words later, we've finished - just in time! We'll be posting two chapters a week (Sundays and Wednesdays) for the next several weeks, and we very much hope you'll enjoy it!
This is not the same story as the movie. Neither is it a story Disney could ever tell. It's darker and more adult than the original, and deals with some very non-Disney topics! ;-) Although we've kept some elements of the movie, the mythology is of our own creation and the fate of our favourite pirates and villains is by no means a fait accompli. In this story, anything can happen…
With thanks to djarum99 for the insightful beta, and to Disney for creating this wonderful world, we humbly offer At World's End: Redux in celebration of the PotC trilogy.
In the beginning was the Song and the Song breathed…
From nothing it began, possessing no knowledge of its origin. It just knew that it was. Created from time, from the heat of the first blast, from the stuff of stars, it was formless and eternal, it was energy and it was life and its beat played within the heart of the Universe.
And then it was summoned.
Borne on the trail of ice and fire that flashed through the heavens, it travelled to the source of the call. In the midst of the darkness, appeared light. A flame, small but unyielding. The flame grew, filling the small space with a heavy heat, sending golden forms dancing across the uneven stone walls. The room contained two figures; one seated in the corner, concealed by hood and shadow, the other sweat-slicked and broad shouldered, bathed in the crimson glow emitted by the now ferocious furnace. This was the place to whence it had been called and this was the place that would witness its birth into the world of men.
Then there was sound, a beat made solid; the clink-clink-clink as hammer met anvil and the first coin was forged. There followed eight others, all similar, but each unique and, for a while, it seemed that there it would end. But then, one final time, tongs were plunged into the smouldering furnace and another disc withdrawn, not silver or gold like the others, but a fiery union of all precious metals.
The call grew louder.
The coin was shaped and moulded as the first nine had been, with rhythmic pounding and carillon chimes. But as its molten glow faded, there appeared, barely visible upon the flattened metal, an intricate pattern of lines and curls that sparkled with white fire. In the corner of the room, quick fingers moved across strings. The notes hung in the air and it could feel them, it could see them, and what power they held.
It knew, then, why it had been summoned, for here was the means by which it would make itself heard. The words engraved upon the coin beckoned and, whether by its own will or by the whim of the universe, the unseen force coiled itself around each letter and felt its energy grow. The words and the music gave it strength and the radiance shone brighter for just an instant, before fading into nothing. For now, the task was over and dawn was coming.
The Song waited.
Captain Morgan Teague, Keeper of the Code, stood alone in the Great Hall of Shipwreck Cove, warming himself by the fire. Outside, storm-lashed seas raged against the Citadel, her timbers and decks sighing and creaking as if in remembrance of deadly tempests long since past – and in warning of those yet to come. Not for five generations had the seas been free to unleash their might against the Brethren of the Coast, but the ships’ ancient bones remembered their power well and shivered in dread anticipation of the storm clouds gathering upon the horizon.
Teague held his hands out to the fire, his fingers as gnarled and weatherworn as the city herself. But though there was heat to be gained from the flames there was little comfort to be drawn. Not this day. With a sigh, he lowered his aching body into a worn chair and filled his pipe.
Not long after, the messenger was brought before him. Still drenched and trembling from his passage through the Devil's Throat, the man’s ebony skin glistened, his eyes wide as he gazed up at the unique majesty of the Great Hall. The keels of a dozen ancient galleons arched above them, like the vaulted ceiling of some Byzantine Cathedral, glorious in blues and reds and gold. There was irony in that, to be sure, for the spires of Shipwreck Cove were raised in worship of other forces, powers more ancient and elemental than those to which the Church lifted her stony arms. Indeed, was the existence of the Cove ever made known, was the truth it protected ever discovered, then the twin fists of Church and Empire would smash it to kindling – and destroy, forever, the wonders of a world already slipping into legend.
Teague lowered his pipe from his lips and, through the mist of blue smoke, watched the messenger’s expression change; awe was swamped by sharp sorrow and Teague knew this man bore grim tidings. “Welcome, friend,” he said, turning reluctantly from the fire. “What is it you seek among the Brethren of the Coast?"
The messenger pressed his hands together, offering a short bow in the manner of the Cove. “Only dat which de Keepers freely give,” he said, making the correct response. “De manbo send me, she tell me de way.”
Teague took care to allow nothing to show upon his face, though his hackles rose as if a squall approached. With a nod, he dismissed the two hands who had brought the man from the quay, watching in silence until they’d left the Great Hall and he was alone with the stranger. “Tell me, then, what business has Tia Dalma with the Brethren? She who would sweep us all from the seas if she could.”
The man’s eyes flashed anger. “De manbo want only her freedom.” He tugged the wet shirt from his shoulder to reveal a slave brand upon his skin. “As do we all, hmm?”
Teague narrowed his eyes. “That ain’t why she sent you, though.”
“No.” He pulled his shirt closed and studied Teague a moment. “You are Teague? Father to Jack Sparrow?”
A jerk of his head sufficed as acknowledgement, and if his breath caught, he made sure the messenger saw nothing. “What of it?”
Shadow passed over the man’s face, over the whole hall, dimming the fire and chilling the air. “My heart weep. All our hearts weep, sir. For Jack Sparrow set us free, an’ now him pay de cost wit’ him own life.”
The soft snap of a pipe stem breaking was the only sound in the world. “How?”
“Jones. Him terrible beast take wily Jack and him precious Pearl back to de cold dark deep.”
Impossible! He had been so careful, planned so closely to ensure— “Jones?” Teague’s voice rasped like stone on stone. “Are you sure?”
The man cocked his head. “Don’ you feel it? De change in de tide an’ de wave? Som’ting come now, som’ting come.”
He did feel it, had felt it these six weeks past. Beneath the fresh blade of grief that pierced his heart, a deeper wound bled, a sharper pain that he would howl to the wind if he dared; failure, terror, loss. For if Jack Sparrow walked the underworld once more, then all Teague had done since the boy sucked in his first screaming breath had been for naught. All his vows had proven faithless; he had changed nothing! With a growl, he turned back to the fire. But a dozen images danced there, taunting him; Roane, fey and strange, so beautiful it pierced his heart; and her boy, eyes bright with mischief before knowledge had made them dark, his anger, fierce as a tempest and unforgiving as rock. His boy, his son, his Jackie… Lost to him, and now to the world; Isaac stretched upon the altar of other men’s plots and fears.
“Aye,” he said roughly, blinking into the heat of the fire. “Something comes now, lad. Something comes indeed…”
Death walked among them, clad in blue and scarlet, brass buttons reflecting the glare of a sun that seemed colder than it used to be. There was to be a pyre later that day, a burning of bodies that would be accompanied by neither prayer nor ceremony. The boy looked on as the product of that day’s cull, bare-foot and blackened, was thrown upon the pile and the mountain of corpses grew once more. The stench was unbearable.
“Watch out, sonny,” said one of the soldiers gruffly, as he and his colleague pushed their way past, another body dangling between them. Its head fell back and the boy found himself staring into the glassy eyes of his dead father. He shed not a tear though, for this was the reason he was here and grief could come later.
In the ten years since his birth, his father had taught him that such a time would come to pass, and what would be expected of him when it did. In late nights, huddled by the fire, his brothers and sisters long since a-bed, he would be made to recite the words until his voice was hoarse and his eyelids drooped, wearily.
“He’s but a child, Matthew,” his mother would protest. “He should not be made to bear your burden so early.”
“’Tis all of our burden, Agnes. Have you not seen the signs? Do you not smell the stench that hovers on every breeze? The Tyranny of Man has begun. The boy must know his legacy.” Thus his father would reply, and thus the lesson would continue. Once, as his mother had made her familiar lament, his father had turned to him and rested his hand upon his head, thumb gently stroking his hair. In his countenance was such an open and unguarded expression of love, so rare, yet so raw that the boy felt his throat tighten and tears prickle his eyes. And suddenly he was afraid. “You are a child yet, my son,” said his father, softly. “But I fear the time is close and I shall not see you pass into manhood. Your son will not bear this legacy, nor his son after that, for the task shall fall to you, boy. So mark well my words. Recite, again.” And so the lessons had continued until the day the wind had changed for Port Royal and for the world. Now his father lay dead before him and the boy was no longer a child.
The soldiers returned to the cart, grumbling between them about the ache in their arms, and the boy used this opportunity to steal forward and climb the hideous mountain to reach his father’s body. His hand reached behind the waistband of the dead man’s breeches and he fought the urge to recoil at the cold touch of his lifeless flesh. Feeling along the thin material, he found what he was looking for, hard and circular, sewn into the seam of the fabric. He pulled and the hidden pocket tore away with little resistance. The coin seemed to vibrate at his touch.
“Hey you! What’ve you got there?” The shout came from behind and the boy started, losing his footing and sliding down the fleshy slope towards the soldier who lay in wait at the bottom. The man made a grab for him, but he wriggled out of his reach, still clutching the coin tightly. The second soldier appeared from behind and lunged for him, but the boy hurled his narrow frame through the space between his legs. Then he ran. The hurried footfalls behind him kept up for a distance, accompanied by various cries for him to halt, but he kept running until his lungs burned and his side ached and soon the thud of boots died away. Still he ran though, not stopping until he reached the uppermost edge of the island’s tallest cliff, the one that stood sentry to the mouth of the harbour.
Clutching his side and sucking in huge gulps of air, the boy was struck by the notion that his breath might fail him, that the words would not come. What then? What would become of them? But soon his breathing steadied and his heart slowed and he knew it was time.
Opening his palm, he took the coin between thumb and forefinger and rolled it back and forth. How could this bagatelle be the means of their salvation? It would have seemed preposterous had he not felt the faint thrum of energy, like a pulse, in his fingertips. Tentatively, he raised the coin and pressed it to his lips, as his father had taught him, and he let the words come. Only now they were no longer words and the tune was no longer just music. They were power and they were light. They were breath and they were life. They were the beginning and the end. His tongue moved almost of its own volition and he was no longer himself. He was the instrument and the voice.
Then the words came to an end and the music stilled; he felt as though a great energy had left him. The boy raised his arm to the sky and, summoning all the strength he possessed, he threw the coin out and over the cliff’s edge. It hung there for a moment, longer than nature should allow, and caught the sunlight in white fire that drew lines upon its surface. Then it dropped, falling forever before the raging water below claimed it.
The wait was over. The Song had been sung.
A fire burned on the beach, flames whipped into a devilish dance by the offshore breeze. Elizabeth kept her distance, kept to the shadows, watching the silhouettes of the crew moving backward and forward as they readied supplies for the impossible journey ahead. But Barbossa’s vulgar laugh carried harshly across the barren sweep of sand, the snigger of his long-time crewman, the scrawny little Ragetti, making an ugly counterpoint.It seemed strange to Elizabeth that any of them could laugh when the world was so bitter – when they had witnessed the horror of the Pearl’s demise, and knew that her captain now lay alone in the crushing black depths.
She closed her eyes against that image, but all she could hear in the darkness was the whispered softness of his farewell. Pirate… Had she tears left, she would weep again for what she had done.
“Elizabeth…?” Will’s careful voice came from behind her. He never drew close now, and she thought he must be able to see something of her crime in her eyes because his face had grown tight with disappointed anger. It was best that he kept his distance, she told herself, for once the truth was known he would surely despise her…
Marshalling herself, Elizabeth turned but could not muster a smile. “Are they ready?”
Will shook his head, his gaze lost in shadows. “Some more to load, still. It must be quite a journey, I suppose, to the end of the world.”
“Yes.” She tried to smile, longing for the comfort of his embrace but lacking the courage to seek it. For what comfort could he offer? What comfort did she deserve?
“You look pale.” His concern was cracked and brittle; there was no ease between them now, and perhaps never would be again.
She pulled her coat tight against a chill that seemed to emanate from her very bones. “I’m well. Just tired.”
“It’s been a long…” He laughed slightly and scratched at his head. “Has it really been less than two months since—? Since Lord Beckett came to Port Royal?”
A marriage interrupted? Or fate intervenes…
Elizabeth shivered. “Seems like forever,” she said. “I hope my father—”
“I’m sure he is being well treated,” Will said quickly. “Not even Beckett would dare harm a Royal Governor.”
She said nothing, couldn’t bring herself to talk of her flight from Port Royal, nor of the fear she’d seen in her dear father’s face. Couldn’t bring herself to think of him locked in that wretched gaol…
“After this is done,” Will said determinedly, “you will go to him. And then you’ll see, all will be well.”
Elizabeth nodded, but hope eluded her. Had he forgotten the warrant for her arrest? How could she return, while Beckett was still a power in the Caribbean?
Will sighed then, the toe of his boot digging into the sand. “You used to talk to me more, Elizabeth.”
There was a weight in his voice, a sadness that touched her heart. But that world seemed so distant now, the world where they had laughed and planned their future together. What had they talked of in that halcyon past? She could hardly remember, for all was shrouded now in a bleak fog of guilt and sorrow.
“If there’s something troubling you…? Something you need to…to discuss?” He looked up, pain and hope writ plain across his face. “Elizabeth…?”
Shaking her head, her eyes filled with tears. “I can’t… I’m sorry, Will, I just— I can’t tell you.”
He frowned, a bitter smile touching his lips. “Could you tell Jack?”
Tears fell, hot against her cheek, and in a broken voice she whispered, “He already knows…”
There was silence then, and when she looked up Will was gazing out toward the little sloop they had commandeered. “You should know that I plan to set my father free," he said stiffly. "Once we have the Pearl, I will go after the Dutchman. No matter what Jack Sparrow has to say on the matter.”
“I never doubted it,” she said. “You’re a good man, Will, I’d expect no less of you.”
He nodded, although he seemed perturbed, his gaze fixed for a long time upon the night shrouded sea. After a while he crouched down to lift a stone from the beach and for a moment she thought he meant to throw it into the dark water, but he simply hefted it in his hand. The rock was black, shot through with a single line of white. Will stared at it for a long time, his thumb running over the white seam. “I wonder,” he said softly, “if a good man would feel such dread at the prospect of voyaging to save his father?”
“Anyone but a fool would fear where we mean to go, Will.” Tentatively she reached out and covered his hand with her own, brushing the cool rock with her fingertips. “We’ll be sailing dangerous waters.”
“And so far from the bones of the earth,” he added thoughtfully. “The sea is such a desolate place.” He smiled then, and it seemed he was once more the boy she had fallen in love with so long ago. “Silly, I suppose.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Never that.”
He made no answer, although she noticed that he pocketed the stone. “Come on then,” he said, “we’re almost ready to leave.”
Yet Elizabeth found she couldn’t move, couldn’t bring herself to abandon this dark solitude for the brash world beyond. “I’ll be there in a moment,” she said, eyeing the capering figure of Ragetti with more than a little disquiet.
Will sighed and the boy was gone again, replaced once more by mistrust and sorrow. Silently he nodded and turned to walk back along the beach toward the fire and the longboat.
She watched him go, her heart heavy, and wondered if it would be better if she just confessed her crime. At least then he would know the truth of her, would understand the depth of what now stood between them. But she couldn’t, not yet. Not until they had found Jack and her betrayal had been undone. If they found Jack…
Will was so confident, they all were, that this impossible venture would succeed. But beneath her fingertips she could still feel the shackle’s rough iron, and the warmth of his hand drifting to nothing as she fled; before her eyes she still saw the strange smile that had curved his silent lips, and knew that nothing less than his resurrection could ease the weight of her guilt. Yet his salvation seemed increasingly unlikely. Six weeks it had taken them to reach Hispaniola’s northern shore, six weeks of biting insects, tentacle vines, and sweltering heat, and she failed to see how any of it would bring them closer to the weird and haunted shores of which Tia Dalma had spoken. For surely Jack was far beyond the reach of mortal sails?
She’d said as much, on the first night they’d hunkered around the fire, eyeing the noisy, restless canopy in trepidation. What need, she’d asked, for commandeering a ship, when Tia Dalma could apparently produce long-dead sea captain’s with a wave of her hand?
The witch-woman had smiled at that, her eyes glinting in the dark. “What do you know, chil’? What do you know of magic, hmm? I tell you ‘dis. Sometime de path we choose is more important dan de destination.” Her eyes had moved to rest on Will, her lips curving into a sly smile. “What say you, Will Turner?”
Will had said nothing, just shaken his head and continued to worry at a piece of wood with the strange knife that always seemed to be in his hand.
Barbossa had shifted closer, though, his crude face macabre in the dancing firelight. “If Jack be dead,” he said, “then Davy Jones would be sorely disappointed, Miss Swann.”
She’d not looked at him as she’d asked, “What do you mean?”
“The dead have nothing left to hope for, do they? And ’tis hope, and the crushing of hope, what feeds Jones’ terrible hunger.” His eyes, she remembered, had alighted on Tia Dalma with a glitter as cold as diamonds. “Ain’t that right?”
Her gaze narrowed. “Truth an’ lies from de same tongue, Barbossa. Jack be dead, but he not beyond de reach of hope.” She’d looked again at Elizabeth as she spoke, and more quietly added, “It can save him, hmm? And save you.”
But what hope was there to be had? If Jack was restored, then the truth of her crime would be revealed and Will would be lost to her. For how could she expect him to love her, when treason stained her scarlet?
But if Jack were lost forever…? Oh treacherous heart, fluttering at the memory of that most forbidden of kisses. And yet she was helpless against his unexpected tenderness, against the trust that made her betrayal so bitter.
“I’m sorry…” Her voice was no more than a whisper, an ache of regret, snatched by the wind from her lips and sent tumbling over the waves. For a moment, she closed her eyes and strained to hear an answer in the breeze.
But none came.
At length, she turned toward the fire and began to make her weary way back to the longboat. She’d taken no more than half a dozen steps when she stopped; something was glinting silver in the water, half buried in the sand. Elizabeth took a step closer, bending to see… A coin. It was a coin, a silver coin. The water was cool on her fingers as she plucked it from the sand and—
Her breath caught.
It was not just a coin. With shaking fingers, she turned the familiar string of beads over and over until there was no hope left; without doubt, the bauble had belonged to Jack Sparrow. Her eyes pooled with tearsas she pressed the beads to her lips and tried, in vain, not to imagine how they came to be cast upon the shore. But she knew. Oh, how she knew… For in her mind’s eye she saw him chained to the mast as the beast tore apart his beloved Pearl, and in her heart she knew that he was gone.
Jack Sparrow was dead, and all hope was lost.
Lord Cutler Beckett waited behind his desk, fingers steepled. The vast cabin of the Endeavour was flanked on either side by the marines’ finest men, and behind his left shoulder stood the newly restored - and suitably indebted - Admiral James Norrington. All was as it should be and Beckett allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction. “Are you sure he will come?”
“He has no choice, from what I’ve heard,” said Norrington. “He who holds the heart commands Davy Jones, and he who commands Davy Jones…”
“…commands the sea. And all those who sail upon her.” Beckett smiled at the thought, at the shiver of anticipation that ran like quicksilver fingers along his spine.
“He’s a monster, though. I warn you. Like no man you’ve seen before, like no creature…”
Beckett reached out and put his hand upon the box that sat before him on the desk. “Whatever he is, he can still die. And so he will serve my purpose.” From above there came a sudden squall of activity, hushed mutterings of shock and surprise, and the Endeavour herself began to rock, as though passing through another ship's bow wave. Beckett’s hand tightened on the box. “What was that?”
“The Dutchman,” Norrington said quietly. “He’s here.”
As if announced by those very words, Beckett heard a slow, limping tread approach the door. He felt the hair on his neck stir, saw the nervous glances the men exchanged, as the scraping thuds of the man’s footsteps stopped outside. There came a knock then, a sharp military rap. Beckett cleared his throat, steadied his voice. “Enter.”
Behind him he sensed Norrington stiffen, but his gaze was riveted to the apparition that was escorted into his cabin. Its head looked like nothing so much as a squid, revolting tentacles shifting about its throat as if in some underwater current. It had no hair and, for one hand, a crustacean’s claw. But its eyes, small and bright, were harsh with a malevolent intelligence that Beckett knew must not be underestimated. This creature would gut him in a moment, if given the chance.
Allowing his fingers to tap a gentle tattoo upon the box, Beckett said, “Ah, Captain Jones, how interesting to make your acquaintance.”
The creature’s head shifted from side to side, as if tasting the air, before those eyes fixed on him with the Devil’s cruelty. “You have something that is mine,” it said, in a strangely soft voice. “Do not mock me with your pleasantries, boy, lest I wrest it from your feeble hands and send you to the Locker myself.”
Beckett allowed his gaze to slide sideways and at once the marines had their weapons aimed at the creature. “Do not underestimate me, Jones. There is a new age dawning, an age of reason and of trade. You will help me usher it into these waters, or you will die.” His fist closed over the box. “Here and now.”
Jones' nose – if that’s what it was – flared, his gaze fixed suddenly upon the box. “Brave, boy, to bring it so close to me…” He took a lumbering step forward, and another, until the stench of dead fish was almost intolerable. But Beckett let him come, waiting until he saw the creature's hand tremble toward the box.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said calmly. “I would hardly bring the heart here, would I? It’s upon the Dauntless, and should any harm befall me, my men are instructed to stab it – and burn it.”
Jones cocked his head, a hiss escaping from his mouth. “Then I’d have the great pleasure of taking you to the Locker in person.”
Beckett didn’t answer, but held the bestial stare until the creature was forced to look away. “That’s better,” he said calmly. “Now, let’s discuss what it is you are going to do for me so that I don’t order you killed, shall we?”
The creature made no direct answer, staring instead through the windows and out toward the grotesque monstrosity that was his ship.
“Very good,” Beckett smiled. “Then I shall tell you. There are, in these waters, a number of miscreants determined to interrupt the legal trade of the Empire. They have no regard for law, no regard for order, and no regard for authority. They are faithless, treacherous, despicable creatures, and I desire to see them exterminated.”
Jones looked at him, cunning now, and for the first time since the creature had stepped into his office, Beckett felt a pulse of fear. “Exterminated?” Jones said quietly. “That is a word of hatred, boy. A word of rage. What wound have they done you, that you would exact such terrible retribution?”
“They are an inconvenience, that is all. His Majesty’s government—”
“For two hundred years I've sailed the high seas, boy. I know the pain I see in your eyes…”
Despite himself, Beckett looked away. “The Caribbean will be rid of the pirate threat, trade will be conducted unhindered, and you…” He turned back to Jones. “You will see to it that every last one of them is blasted from the water. The oceans will be, as they rightfully are, the dominion of his Imperial Majesty, King George."
“And then you will return to me what is mine?”
Beckett smiled. “And then I will consider returning to you what is, in point of fact, mine.”
Jones said nothing, making only a strange kind of popping noise with his gruesome mouth. “Within a month, the pirates will be gone. But consider this, boy: I know death, I’ve sailed its haunted shores, and I do not fear it. Give me back what is mine, and our deal is fair. Fail, and I will see you dead before I live another day as your servant.”
Beckett drew in a breath, mindful of the soldiers watching. “When the pirates are exterminated, we will discuss…future arrangements. But know this; you and your ship are at my disposal, and you will not raise sail nor fire a single shot lest it be by my order. Make no mistake about it, Captain Jones – you work for me now.” His gaze cut to the door. “Return to your ship and await my orders.”
For a moment, Jones didn’t move, though his eyes sparked with a cold and frightening fury. Then he turned sharply and clumped toward the door, one wooden leg thumping on the deck with each step. Beckett watched his back, fingers nervous now upon the box, and as the creature reached the door he couldn’t help but call out. “Wait.”
Jones turned, cruel eyes sharp as a blade.
Keeping his voice even, Beckett said, “There is one man… One man I would especially like to see hang. Him, you must bring to me. To face British justice.”
“And this man?” Jones said softly. “Has he a name…?”
Beckett hesitated before saying, “Jack Sparrow.” He imbued the words with ample hatred. “Jack Sparrow, I would see hung at Execution Dock. Bring him to me.”
“Jack Sparrow…?” Jones’ tentacles fluttered; was he laughing? “Jack Sparrow is already mine, doomed to spend eternity in the Locker. Him and his Black Pearl.”
“He’s dead?” The words fell from Beckett’s lips before he could recover himself.
“Dragged to the crushing depths by the Kraken herself.” Jones turned slowly, taking a curious step closer . “Jack Sparrow…” And then he did laugh, a cruel sound indeed. “Scorned you did he, boy?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Leave, now. I have business to—”
And suddenly Jones was right before him, his fish-stench breath washing over him. “No rage so terrible as that of love scorned, no pain so deep.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Beckett hissed, though he could feel his colour rising and cursed himself for it; too many memories stirred, too much humiliation laid bare.
“Do you not?” Jones smiled, and Beckett recoiled at the cold touch of his tentacles against his neck. “I think we understand each other, Cutler Beckett. One month, and my work will be complete. Do not cross me when I return, for there are worse things for a man in your position than death. Worse things by far…”
And then suddenly he was gone, disappeared like mist, and Beckett was alone in the cabin. Alone with a dozen marines and their suspiciously impassive faces. Straightening his shoulders, he cleared his throat. “About your stations, we sail for Port Royal forthwith. Signal the Dauntless to be on her guard; Jones is clearly deranged, who knows what plots he might launch against us? The sooner we make port, the better.”
As the men left, Norrington came around to the front of the desk, his gaze fixed on the windows through which the Dutchman could be seen off their port bow. “Pity, if what he says is true.” The Admiral's hand moved to the sword at his side. “I should have liked to run Sparrow through myself.”
Beckett glanced at him sharply, but said only, “I barely knew the man.”
He supposed, in fact, that it was the truth.
Tia Dalma sat amid her skirts, close to the bow of the sloop, and watched dawn crest the horizon – a silver line of coming day marking the far edges of the mortal world. And the edges of other things, yet to come, drawing closer with each rising sun.
But it was not her fate and future that interested her now, or perhaps it was; the Fates bound them all tightly in these times of change, and her destiny was tied to the scrap of a child who clung to the rail and stared blindly into the morning. A heart divided, light and shade, and a terrible dissonance between; more weight than she knew lay upon this girl-child, and Tia Dalma wondered if her slender shoulders would bear the load. If she failed… A swell of unease rose and fell like the tide - Tia Dalma calmed herself. She would not let the girl fail, that was all; if she needed guiding, then she would guide her.
As she watched, Elizabeth Swann drew something from the pocket of her coat and turned it over in her fingers. In the almost-dark her expression was masked, but Tia Dalma had no need to see her face for she could feel the grief that rolled from her in waves – grief, and something more. Something darker and unspoken. Guilt…
Curious, indeed. Rising silently to her feet, she stepped closer. “What do you have, chil’?”
Elizabeth started, spinning with a gasp of surprise. “I—” Her hand disappeared into her pocket. “Nothing.”
“Do you t’ink me a fool, girl?” She stepped closer. “Do you t’ink dis some game dat we play, hmm?”
“Of course not.” Her chin lifted, sharp and angry, eyes flaring with a brightness that confirmed her words.
“Den tell me what you find, hmm? Tell me what you find in de water, Elizabet’ Swann.”
Her shock was well hidden, a mere widening of her eyes. “Were you spying on me?”
“On you?” Tia Dalma laughed, a sea-swell of amusement. “De ocean, she speak to me, hmm? She tell me her secrets.”
“In that case, you can have no need to interrogate me further,” the girl snapped, turning away.
Tia Dalma stopped her with a hand on her arm, letting her fingers bite into the child’s scrawny flesh. “I am not your enemy, girl. Unless you make me so.” Elizabeth’s head snapped around, jaw clenched. “We bot’ want de same t’ing, hmm? Jack Sparrow.”
“What did de sea give you, chil’?”
With an irritated huff, Elizabeth pulled her arm free and dug into her pocket. When she held out her hand, Tia Dalma sucked in a long, low breath. “Him coin…”
Lifting her eyes, she found her gaze met by that of the girl. Her defiance had vanished and the sorrow beneath gleamed wetly. “It’s proof, isn’t it?” she said softly. “Proof that he’s really dead, that this whole venture is ridiculous. He couldn’t have—” Her jaw clamped shut and Tia Dalma wondered what secrets she hid behind that melancholy gaze. “We saw him die.”
Reaching out a finger, Tia Dalma touched the coin; it was warm, resonant with a latent power that thrilled her bones. “Proof,” she agreed. “Proof dat Jack Sparrow be in de Locker, and not upon death’s shores, for dis coin mean hope and hope cannot travel dere.”
The girl frowned. “I don’t understand…”
“Keep it safe, keep it secret.” Her voice lowered and she drew closer, breathing caution into the child’s ear. “Above all, let no one know dis coin pass to you.”
“Up.” The monstrous ship surged toward the surface at the utterance of the snarled command, scum and corruption from her hull befouling the dead water in her wake. As she burst free from the depths, the roar of the surf cascading over her decks gave her voice; Davy Jones held fast to the wheel with claw and tentacle and murmured for her to settle. After the darkness of his realm, sunlight left him momentarily blind and he waited until the glare had receded. The light, though, refused to surrender completely and still sparkled upon the surface of the sea, like precious jewels, giving lie to its desolate reality.
Too calm, he thought, too calm. Jones longed for squalls to blacken the sky, for storms to rage and turn the ocean to thunder. But the sun blazed and the sky remained blue; the only maelstrom was the one that howled in his hollow chest.
He was chained now, a caged beast, kept in check by Cutler Beckett, his wrath allowed release only in measured quantities. Such a small man, in both body and in spirit, to hold such power; the day would come, though, when he would rue his ambition, for Davy Jones was no one’s puppet.
Yet there was something in Beckett that spoke to Jones; greed, bitterness and, above all, the acid sting of betrayal. Though he had shed his last vestiges of humanity long ago, the memory of her scent, her lilting voice, the gentle tug of her fingers as she wound them into his beard, could not be shaken so easily. Poets and storytellers spoke of love as a maiden, divine and beautiful, rising from the foam of a gentle sea, but their tales were woven from lies and deceit. For love was not a maiden; she was a crone, wizened and foul, daughter of Pandæmonium and bringer of catastrophe to all men. That Cutler Beckett should know her face, and know it well judging by the look in his eyes, surprised Jones.
Just two words, but therein lay Beckett’s downfall, the means by which Jones would lay waste to his empire. For now, he would bide his time, let Beckett keep the upper hand, let him retain ownership of that wretched pound of flesh. The rightful order would be restored in due course and, when the opportune moment arose, Jones would be waiting to snatch Cutler Beckett down to the deep.
“Cap’n!” He turned towards the cry from the crow’s nest and saw a crewman waving a deformed and barnacled arm to starboard. Following his line of sight, Davy Jones twisted his mouth into a bitter grimace that had some semblance of a grin. There were, indeed, benefits to his current arrangement with the illustrious East India Company. No longer must his quarry be close to death before he claimed his bounty; no longer must his victim’s despair outweigh their hope.
The ship ahead rode low in the water, fat-bellied with cargo, and the trade winds filled her canvas, urging her through the water with some haste, despite her load. She flew no colours, but Jones knew the cut of her and had her marked as a vessel that would fit Beckett’s definition of treacherous. Hope radiated from her in waves and Jones intended to feast. It was time to call the creature.
With a guttural roar, he turned to his crew and all hands jumped to quarters, knowing, without the need for orders, what was to come. Slowly, the capstan was raised, accompanied by the low rumble of cogs and the sharp, rhythmic crack of the bo’sun’s lash. The savage, mournful cries rang out of those who could no longer call themselves men and, to Jones, it sounded like a requiem.
The words, then, came easily. “Let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein… Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up… the Kraken!”
The capstan fell. A tremor shook the ocean, thunderous and powerful, a shudder to wake all the demons of Hell. The crew turned to watch the carnage.
The sea remained silent.
There was no swell of water to herald the beast’s coming and, in the near distance, their quarry gained speed.
“Cap’n Jones?” His bo’sun was by his side, but Jones’ gaze was fixed upon the Caribbean’s calm waters. “Shall we call her once more, sir?” There was uncertainty in his voice, perhaps even a note of fear, and Jones took solace in that. He knew now, though, that the creature would not come, no matter how many times the summons was raised.
“For the fashion of this world passeth away…” he whispered.
“The Kraken is gone.”
“Dead, sir? But… but how?”
"Not dead." For death was too simple a word to describe this passing; this was more than just the end of a life. The Kraken’s absence heralded a change so great, that only the strongest would survive. But I am the sea, thought Jones, and the sea is unchanging. Let the wind bring what it will, for I shall look into the eye of the storm and I shall survive.
“Ready the triple guns,” he growled at the bo’sun. “Blood will cloud these waters this day.” Turning, he strode towards the wheel, but halted suddenly, midway, and turned his head, listening. There it was, so faint he could hardly hear it, but there nonetheless, drifting on the breeze. It filled him with such a longing, such a need, growing louder, filling his head, wrapping itself around him…
A call to all…
Pulling him, summoning him….
"No!" What folly was this? He would not be summoned like a cowering dog. Let the fools sing their song and hope for redemption, as if that foul sea-witch would offer them anything but perdition. Their power was naught compared to that which he had granted them, that power which he alone now possessed. "Fire all," he growled, and as the blast from the first cannon rang out, Davy Jones turned his face skyward and laughed, a gruesome, twisted bliss radiating throughout his misshapen body.
In his pocket, the coin began to pulsate.
The Queen Mary pitched, her bowsprit sniffing the coming storm like a dog on the hunt. Below, in her narrow hammock, Elizabeth Swann muttered uneasily and rocked in her sleep.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars, never shall we die…
On deck, the wind changed direction, sending the sails flapping. Gibbs cursed and shouted orders, rousing men from their bunks to man the yards. He shivered and glanced at the ghost-white moon, swiftly consumed by black clouds. Under his breath, he tossed a prayer to the Blessed Virgin.
The bell has been raised from it's watery grave... Do you hear it's sepulchral tone?
Tia Dalma stood at the rail, her frail shawl pulled tight about her arms and her eyes bright as the blazing sun. She smiled and hummed softly to herself, lifting her face to the shifting breeze and welcomed the end. And the beginning.
We are a call to all, pay head the squall and turn your sail toward…
“Home…” Elizabeth awoke with a start, the echo of her own voice lingering in her ears. Had she been dreaming of home? In the dim lamplight she looked around, listening to the rough snores of Pintel who slept in the hammock next to hers, and wondered what had woken her; probably nothing more, nor less, than what had woken her every hour of every night since— Her heart lurched with cold grief and she closed her eyes, trying to summon images of her summer garden, of her father…
Yo ho, haul together, hoist the colours high.
Her eyes flashed open. Not a dream, then. Someone was singing… A child, his voice pure as crystal. She tried to sit up, but it was impossible in the hammock and she ended up rolling out, landing with a thump on her feet. Pintel snuffled, snorted, and snored again. Shivering in the midnight-cold, she snatched the rough blanket from the hammock and flung it over her shoulders.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars, never shall we die.
There it was again! She shook her head, one hand slipping absently into her pocket and clasping Jack’s silver coin; it felt strangely warm to the touch, almost thrumming beneath her fingers. Satisfied she still had it – mindful of Tia Dalma’s unexplained warning – she made her way toward the steps leading to the deck.
She’d expected to find Barbossa at the helm, but instead Will had the ship’s wheel and he watched her emerge with a concerned frown. “I couldn’t sleep,” she said, in answer to his silent question. In truth, she’d not slept more than a couple of hours together since— She could barely think the words, though it did nothing to stop the onslaught of images; he’d stood so still when she left him, not railed nor called for aid, not cursed her. A single shout would have brought Gibbs running, why had he not—?
“Go below,” Will’s troubled voice jarred her from the memory, pulling her back into dark reality. “Even if you don’t sleep, at least you will rest.”
Tugging the blanket tighter about her shoulders, she nodded. “I will, I promise. I just— Did you hear someone singing, before? I thought I heard a child singing.”
“A child?” Will shook his head. “We’re leagues from shore, Elizabeth. There are no children here. It was a dream, perhaps. Maybe you slept after all.”
“Maybe,” she agreed, although her mind still buzzed with the tune, as if it were somehow trapped there and unable to leave. “I thought so at first, but then I heard it after I’d woken.”
Will shrugged, glancing up at the sails. “One of the crewmen, then. Gibbs says the wind has changed, they’re hauling in canvas. You must have heard one of them.”
She said nothing, confident of what she’d heard, yet unable to explain it. In silence, she came to stand at Will's side and longed to rest her head against his shoulder. But there seemed a barrier between them now, her guilt and his anger had built a wall she dared not breach. “Do you trust them?” she said quietly, her gaze drifting to where Barbossa stood in deep conversation with Tia Dalma. In the moonlight, she saw the glint of a golden coin dancing across his fingers, and for a moment she thought of Aztec treasure and better times.
“Trust them?” Will’s reply was scornful. “Trust is ill-advised in these waters.”
“Yes.” And how could she say otherwise, after what she had done? “But do you think—? Do you think they really mean to save Jack?”
Will was silent for a long time. When he spoke, his voice was very low and unexpectedly heated. “He would have seen me serve a hundred years aboard the Dutchman,Elizabeth. Do you forget that? He sent me to settle his debt. He sent me as his payment.”
She looked at him, saw the bitter resentment in his eyes. “I’ve not forgotten, Will. That deception… He has paid for it now, has he not?”
“Paid for it?” His angry eyes flared. “Settled his own debt at last, yes. Though why he should be so lauded for it when—” He forced a sharp smile. “He made a deal with the Devil, Elizabeth. Who else should pay the price, but Jack?”
Bleak irony twisted Elizabeth’s lips into a graceless smile. “You speak as though you think I disagree, Will. As though I believe others should have paid the debt in his place, or shared it with him.”
“Don’t you?” Will said hotly. “Like Gibbs and the others, don’t you believe he died a hero?”
“No,” she said softly. “Not a hero. He died— It was the only way, there was no other choice.”
“And yet you wish him back again.”
Confused, she looked up at him. “He was a good man, Will. He didn’t deserve—”
“A good man? You can say so, even after he condemned me to a living death, simply to save his own skin?” He laughed bleakly and looked away. “He’s glittering enough, I grant you, but I’d thought your notions of a ‘good man’ lay deeper than a glib tongue and a golden smile.”
“Will…!” She stared, astonished. “What are you accusing me of?”
His jaw clamped shut and he looked away. “Nothing.”
She was silent, quelling the unease she felt stirring in the dark corners of her soul – in places too dark to examine clearly, and all the better for that. Safer. “You know he’s a good man,” she said after a pause. “A year ago, you stood between him and the hangman’s noose.”
Will didn’t answer, his eyes glaring at the black horizon.
“If you think— If you believe I feel something inappropriate for him…” Her breath caught at the recollection of Jack’s tender capitulation, of his unquestioning surrender to her touch. She pushed the memory aside. “Will, there’s something you don’t know. Something I have to tell you about that day. But I’m afraid, I’m afraid that if you know the truth you’ll never be able to trust—”
Yo ho, haul together, hoist the colours high…
She jumped, glancing behind her and half expecting to see a child at her shoulder. “Did you hear that?” She looked at Will. “Did you hear someone singing?”
Will was staring at her in frustration. “What is it?” he said, as though he were holding his breath. “What must you tell me about that day?”
Heave ho, thieves and beggars, never shall we die…
She shook her head, rubbed at her ear. “Will, how can you not hear it?”
He grabbed her shoulder. “Tell me!” he hissed. “Tell me what happened between you and Jack, tell me what you—”
“Both hands on the wheel, lad!” bellowed Barbossa, swaggering across the deck toward them with Tia Dalma close on his heel. “The wind be changin’, and ’tis no time for a light touch at the helm.”
Cursing beneath his breath, Will released her shoulder. “Do you mind?” he growled at Barbossa. “We were having a private conversation.”
“Were ye now?” Barbossa leered. “Then you’d best be havin’ it below decks, lad, and leave the sailing to them what know a gasket from a gimball.”
“And you should…”
The bell has been raised from it's watery grave... Do you hear it's sepulchral tone?
“There!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Tell me you don’t hear that!”
Barbossa went deathly still, his gleaming attention snapping from Will to Elizabeth between two beats of her heart. “Hear what now, Miss Swann?”
“Someone singing. A child singing.”
Behind him, Elizabeth heard Tia Dalma hiss softly. Barbossa just stared, his eyes hard as diamonds in his craggy face until, to her astonishment, he sang in a rough voice, “We are a call to all, pay head the squall, and turn your sail toward home.”
“Yes!” she said in nervous relief. “Yes, that’s it. Who’s singing it?” She looked about her. “I can’t see who—”
“Ah, Miss Swann,” Barbossa said, leaning closer and baring his teeth in what might have been mistaken for a smile. “The real question be, how is it that you can hear it at all?”
She frowned and glanced at Will, who simply shrugged. “What do you mean?”
Barbossa chuckled then and took her hand, turning it over. “Is it blood I see here, upon these delicate fingers? For I can think of only one way a fine missy such as yer’self would come to hear that particular ancient and portentous Song.” He cast a sly glance at Tia Dalma, who met it with studied indifference. “He – or she – what kills a Pirate Lord, becomes a Pirate Lord, eh?”
Elizabeth stared at him, heart thundering. “A Pirate Lord?”
His grin was feral. “Did ye not know? Captain Jack Sparrow be one o’the nine Lords of the Sea. Or so he was… Until you killed him, eh, Miss Swann?”
Breath caught like a dagger in her throat, her face flaming with the truth as she tore her hand from Barbossa’s. “I…” But the denial would not come; the truth was out and she found herself glad of it. Warily, she lifted her eyes to Will.
“You killed him?” He was staring at her in astonishment. “You killed Jack Sparrow?”
Tears came, scorched with guilt, but she did not look away. The world was tumbling around her and, though she had been expecting it, the fall was more painful than she’d imagined. “It was the only way,” she said in a harsh whisper. “Don’t you see? The Kraken was after Jack, not us, and if I’d not— If he’d not stayed behind… If I’d not ensured he stayed behind, then—”
And suddenly she was in Will’s arms, his breath warm upon her cheek, and his arms strong and forgiving. “Oh thank God,” he whispered against her hair. “Thank God.”
She was dizzy with confusion. “Will…?”
“I thought…” He laughed shakily, cupping her face and drawing back that he might look into her eyes. “I saw you kiss him, Elizabeth, and I thought— It was a ruse, then? A distraction?”
“Yes.” She turned away, unable to meet his honest eyes. “Yes, a ruse…”
The weight ought to have been lifted, she ought to have felt lighter with the truth spoken and Will’s forgiveness assured, yet she found that her heart dragged heavier still. And in that moment she realised that another truth lurked there, one she had not spoken – one she dared not acknowledge. Pirate…
And all she could hear above the sudden thundering of her heart was Barbossa’s wicked laughter. “Ah, Jack… Once more undone by his ill-fated proclivity for trustin’ where trust ain’t deserved, eh?” He sketched a graceless bow to Elizabeth, doffing his hat. “Welcome to the Brethren of the Coast, Miss Swann. You be one of us now – a treacherous, black-hearted, ruthless bloody pirate!”
Continued in Chapter Three