It was the setting sun that told Agwe Broussard he would never see Haiti again. On the last day of the crossing, he watched it fall from the sky and plunge into the sea at the edge of the world, casting fire across the heavens and turning the water scarlet; he knew then that it spelled his death.
Though, by the accounts of the crew, the voyage from Port-au-Prince had been a smooth one, Agwe had spent all but that final day huddled below decks, with nothing but a bucket and his heaving gut for company. Everything moved. The hammocks in which they slept, the plates from which they ate their meagre rations, even the deck beneath their feet. Especially the deck beneath their feet.
Agwe longed for the quiet, gentle drift of his pirogue down the slow moving waters of the sousdlo, for the soft glow of the lightning bugs amidst the avocado trees; most of all he longed for a world that wasn't so big. Before this journey, he had never set eyes on the open ocean or seen sky whose light wasn't filtered though an overhanging canopy of branches. When they had first stepped down from the wagon in Port-au-Prince harbour, it had been a struggle for Agwe not to throw himself to the ground and cling there for fear of drifting off into the massive expanse of sea and sky that lay before him. However Didier, Agwe's companion on this journey, had grinned broadly, taking in their surroundings with quick eyes, as a thirsty man might gulp water.
"Dis be life, bradda," he said, gripping Agwe's elbow as they walked up the gangway to the waiting ship. He gestured with his arm, sweeping it around the harbour, which bustled with more people than Agwe had ever seen in one place. "Dis be where a man can breat', where opportunity await him."
But Agwe did not want opportunity. He wanted the haven of his little shack upon the bayou, the same shack his grandfather had built as a young man with freedom a taste sweet in his mouth, though the white man's brand still burned raw upon his chest. Agwe's father had never known the brand, had not known what it was to be called slave and treated as chattel. He had raised his son in the quiet freedom of the swamp, until the ancestors had seen fit to take him to their breast five years ago.
After his father's death, Agwe's tranquil life had continued as it had always done. But then, six weeks ago, grief came to the bayou in a swell of tears and candlelight. Standing waist deep in the murky waters of the sousdlo, Agwe had watched as the boat made its way upstream, its passengers still and silent. One amongst their number wore her grief heavy, like a sodden blanket draped across her shoulders. Candlelight had glinted upon tears and grime, gilding her skin, painting a portrait of loss and something else. Something bitter that set her jaw hard.
The small party of white folk had retreated to the manbo's shack and the mourners had left the water to return to their homes. Soon after the manbo had come to him and charged him with the duty of delivering the message. He had not dared question her.
"You shall take Didier wit' you," she said to him with a nod.
"But, manbo, me don' trust him. Him not one of us."
"Does he not bear de brand dat your grandfadda bore? Dat not make him kin to you, Agwe?"
It had been difficult to argue with that, not that it was ever a good idea to argue with that particular woman, given the tales that were told of her. And so he and Didier had set out on the voyage to Jamaica, to deliver the message to the sad white girl's father, a message that no doubt told of whatever strange undertaking had led the manbo to leave the swamp for what was the first time in Agwe's lifetime. Now, as they neared Port Royal harbour, he stood upon the deck and watched the prezaj that had been sent to him; a sun that turned the sea to blood and set the heavens afire. He fought a sudden swell of sadness at the knowledge he would never see his home again, but, if the l'wha wished it, he would not question their will.
"Bonjou, Agwe. Komon ou ye?" Didier had appeared beside him, his dark eyes darting between Agwe and the fast approaching town.
"N'ap boulé," Agwe replied, though his stomach still heaved and cramped.
"It be a fine sight, hmm?" Didier leaned on the rail and nodded towards the harbour.
"It be a white man's town, mon. We don' belong der and we most likely not welcome."
In response, Didier clucked his tongue against his teeth. "You be enbesil, mon bradda, if you t'ink de world belong to de white man. It belong to all, we jus' have to take it. De choice be ours. Change be comin', mon bradda. Change come for Haiti and for de worl'. Only a fool would turn him back on dat."
"And what of de l'wha, Didier? What of der will?"
"De l'wha? Pah! What me care of distant spirits and superstition, when life be right here in front of me? Was it der will dat mark me in such a way?" he asked, pulling aside his shirt to reveal the brand that puckered his ebony skin. "Too long have we suffer, Agwe, hiding in de swamp, like frightened animals. It be time we make our own mark, hmm?" Suddenly he reached out and gripped Agwe's hand, his dark gaze boring into him. "Don' you wan' it, Agwe? Can't you taste it?"
"Taste what?" whispered Agwe, startled by the sudden force in Didier's words.
"Opòtinite!" hissed Didier, and for a moment his grin seemed like the snarl of a beast.
Pulling his hand free, Agwe shook his head. "De manbo send us on dis journey, Didier. An' her word be de word of the l'wha." He reached into the pocket of his tunic and pulled free the scrap of paper that had lain next to his breast since they had left the bayou. Didier's eyes narrowed at the sight. "Me deliver de message and trust the ancestors to protect me. Whatever path lay before me be de path dey wish me to walk. Me care nothing for opportunity."
With a deep sigh, Didier pushed himself from the ship's rail and said softly, "Den I be truly sorry for you, bradda. Truly sorry." And, without a further word, he walked away to gather his pack and await their docking, leaving Agwe alone with his thoughts. The sun had disappeared entirely now and the sea and sky were no longer swathed in blood and fire. Still, though, the foreboding sat heavy in his gut.
As they drew into port, he noticed, across the harbour, a vast, majestic ship, masts taller than any tree he'd ever seen, white sails still aglow despite the onset of night. Yellow rings ran the length of its stout body and, along it's back, letters were etched in gold. Agwe's native Creole was a spoken language and so he'd spent little time learning to read. Though he could identify a few English words here and there, the one painted across the grand ship was unfamiliar to him. He knew enough however to recognise the simple word formed by its first three letters. End.
Silently, he offered a prayer up to the ancestors to guide him true upon this path and then turned to where Didier now waited at the top of the gangway, eager to be ashore and grasp whatever opportunity might await.
There'd not been a sniff of a breeze for three days now, the water mirror-smooth beneath the blistering sun. Joshamee Gibbs had the wheel, though the ship drifted idly through the still air and her sails hung like rags from the masts' skeletal arms.
On the deck below, Elizabeth Swann sat slumped against the mast. At first glance she seemed relaxed, but the dark circles about her eyes spoke of sleepless exhaustion, and of guilt. And rightly so, after what she'd done to Jack.
The story had spread fast enough, told with knowing nods and muttered warnings about the faithlessness of women - and the current ill-luck of having two such perfidious creatures aboard ship. But the boy, Turner, claimed she'd saved them all - said that, without her heroic deed, they'd have been dragged to the Locker by Jones' terrible beastie. It seemed to Gibbs that, since they were currently, and with great difficulty, attempting to reach the self same blasted Locker, the girl's betrayal had done naught but deprive Jack of some company on the journey.
He blew out an angry sigh and tightened his grip on the warm wood of the ship's wheel, wishing for rum. Had he been able, Gibbs would have stood with Jack 'til the end - he'd sworn his loyalty the day Jack made him Lieutenant aboard the Pearl, and he couldn't forgive the vainglorious Miss Swann for making a traitor of him. For who was she to decide on behalf of the ship's company? She, who was naught but the hoity-toity daughter of a second rate Royal Governor, and no member of the Pearl's crew? What could she possibly know of a man's sworn loyalty to his friend and captain? The rest of the crew, mind, didn't seem so ill-disposed toward her as he did, but then Ragetti and Pintel had mutinied upon Jack once before, and Barbossa, and the witch he bedded, had their own concerns; concerns about which Gibbs did not wish to know.
It fell to Gibbs, then, to shoulder the resentment he felt due his fallen captain and, if they ever found another breeze in this Godforsaken stretch of water, he was determined that Elizabeth Swann would pay the price for her duplicity. And pay it in full.
Weatherby Swann was dreaming. Though the hard stone beneath him seemed real enough, he was quite certain that if he was, indeed, awake then there would not be a child standing in the corner of his cell. The room was in darkness but for the blue glow of moonlight, which cast an ice-shine across the damp walls and outlined the edge of the little girl's dress. Her face remained in shadow, her features indistinct, but when Weatherby looked closely he realised that her lips were moving, whispering words that hovered on the very cusp of his hearing.
"Who are you, child?" But his question went unheeded and the girl's whispers continued, though now he began to distinguish words and fragments of sentences. They made little sense though, so lying back on the bench again, he waited for the dream to pass.
"The king is lost and her counting house empty. She seeks treasure more valuable than any coin." The child's words echoed loud in the small cell, her voice no longer a whisper, and Weatherby started at the sound, sitting upright once more.
"Do you address me?" he asked, though he could not understand her strange statement.
"Soon the little bird will fly back to the nest, though the cuckoo lives there now. Her shoes are full of sand and her pretty dress, all wet. Mother will be cross for there's to be a tea party tomorrow and she was to dance the first jig."
What a strange little creature my mind has invented, thought Weatherby, and struggled to ignore the strange sense of foreboding that raised the hairs at the back of his neck.
"Do not trust open doors, sir," said the child, addressing him directly for the first time, "lest you catch your fingers in the latch." She raised her arm then and pointed to the tiny window of the cell. "The message comes now, from a lost little bird."
Weatherby turned in the direction she indicated, but saw nothing but the waxing moon shining sombrely through the bars. When he turned back he found that his cell was empty and he was alone.
"Mr Swann!" The hissed cry came from outside the window and Weatherby climbed onto the bench, angling his head that he might get a better view of the rampart below. A man stood there, dark skinned and broad shouldered, dressed in well-worn clothes. "Mr Swann, d'you hear me?"
"Yes, I'm here," whispered Weatherby. "Are you another nocturnal spectre come to baffle me with riddles?" But the man's brow furrowed in puzzlement.
"I come here all de way from Haiti, Mr Swann. De girl, she tell me to bring dis to you." He reached into his shirt and pulled out a tattered sheet of paper, folded but not sealed.
The message comes now...
"The girl?" Weatherby's throat tightened, his heart beating a frantic tattoo in his chest. Could it be? Was there a hope that she was still alive?
"De white girl, wit' de sad face. She be wit' de manbo, Mr Swann. She pass dis to me and bid me bring it to you before dey leave de bayou."
"You've seen Elizabeth? Is she safe?" But the man just shrugged and pursed his lips.
"Not sure if any man or woman be safe wit' de manbo, sir, but she in good healt'. Though she seem such a sad chil', dat true. She have de look of one who has walked with death." Weatherby felt his stomach twist at the thought of his child living such a life and a hard knot of shame found its way into his chest - the shame of a father unable to protect his little girl from the ugliness he knew existed in this world. Eager to read Elizabeth's words, he stretched his arm through the bars of the window and nodded his thanks to the man as he handed over the letter before turning to leave. With trembling fingers, he opened up the page, blinking quickly as the words blurred before his eyes in the dim light.
My Dearest Father,
I know not how this letter will find you, but can only hope that my prayers for your safety have not gone unanswered. As I write these words, I picture you reading them at your bureau in the parlour, just as you attend to all other correspondence. I prefer to imagine that nothing has changed and I ask that you do the same. Choose to believe that my absence is due to an extended tour of the Antilles with Mr and Mrs Heathcote and their daughters. Think of me attending dreary tea parties and taking tiffin with the interminably dull Reverend Watkins, who we met on our trip to Kingston. Do you remember? Do you recall how his sermons would last an hour and you would fall asleep, but then insist that you were merely closing your eyes that you might consider the import of his words? Think of those times, father, and pretend that all is as it was, for I fear that the truth will bring you much heartache. I have discovered that I have quite a talent for bringing pain to those I love dearly.
Oh father, it would be so pleasant to live in that world again, but I am certain that your daughter shall never again return to Port Royal. Not the daughter you once knew. I think perhaps that girl fell into the ocean that day and was never seen again. I do not know the woman whom Jack Sparrow saved from drowning, but I suspect there is a blackness in her heart and sometimes I shudder when I consider the things of which she might be capable.
He's lost, father. Jack Sparrow is lost, passed beyond the edge of the world and I must find him - we must find him, or else all will be lost along with him. I cannot tell you where we are going - I think perhaps you wouldn't believe me if I did - but it is some distance and there will be no map to guide us. I only hope that I can find my way back. I love you, father, with all of my heart and I pray that I was the daughter you wanted me to be. I am so sorry for my part in the events that have led us here.
I must go now, for there is to be a piano recital this afternoon and Mary Heathcote is to accompany me while I sing When the Swallows Homeward Fly, so have pity on my poor audience that they should be subject to my ghastly caterwauling. I'm sure Kitty will be in soon with your brandy. I will imagine you drinking it by the fire.
With unending love, I am most affectionately yours
Five days now, without the air stirring. And water enough for two more. After that...
Will lay on his back, gazing up at the relentless blue, thinking back on another ship drifting and drifting. In the eerie, unnatural fog of Barbossa's cursed ship the stillness had given way to cannonade and fire, murderous death and his own desperate escape. That had been the day he'd first seen Elizabeth, like an angel as she swore to watch over him. Less angelic now, he thought bleakly, not with those haunted eyes and unsmiling lips. Nothing he said to her could ease her guilt, nothing he said could distract her from her desire - her need - to undo what she had done; to save Jack Sparrow from death.
He looked over at her, where she sat near the stern and gazed out at the unreachable horizon, and was surprised when she turned and met his eyes. Her lips moved, cracked and dry like his, and in a parched whisper she said, "How did he do it?"
Will forced himself to sit up, trying to ignore the weakness in his limbs, the hungry dizziness that fogged his mind. "How did who do what?"
"Jack," she said, her gaze darting away as she spoke his name. "How did he trick you aboard the Dutchman? Tell me how he betrayed you, Will."
With effort, he rose and made his way to sit by her side. "If it will help salve your conscience..."
"It's not that. It's ..." Her gaze dropped to the deck. "I was so angry, Will. So angry that he'd lied to me, that I- I just want to know if..." A dry laugh escaped. "I just want to know if he deserved it."
"He made the deal with Jones himself, and freely," he reminded her gently. "You're not to blame for that, nor for doing what was necessary to save yourself. You can wager, had the situation been reversed, he'd have had no qualms about doing the same to you."
He held her gaze a moment, then looked away with a sigh. "It's hard to tell, I suppose. I thought so, on Isla de Muerta, I thought he'd brought me there to trade my life for the Pearl. But later..." He sighed and gazed out over the sunlight, glittering like Aztec gold across the sea. "I confess, later I wondered if he'd planned all along simply to lift the curse and kill Barbossa."
"But the Dutchman," Elizabeth persisted. "Tell me of that. Tell me how he tricked you aboard. Jack told me that you'd been pressed into service, through no fault of his..."
Will snorted softly. "Is that what he said?"
"It's a lie, then?"
"Oh yes." Will glanced at her and couldn't interpret the glint in her eye - was it relief? "Jack was the one who sent me there, to steal the key from Davy Jones. He told me that he'd only trade his compass - only save your life! - if I first went aboard Jones' cursed ship and stole the key to the chest."
"And you agreed?"
"What choice did I have?" He turned, taking her hands. "Elizabeth, I would have done anything to save you. Braved any danger to secure your freedom."
She nodded, her brow knitting into a frown. "It was a trade, then? The key in exchange for the compass."
"Not so straight forward," Will said darkly, remembering the terror of that night upon the reef - of the monsters that had swarmed onto the boat, like creatures from Hades itself. "He told me nothing of Jones, nor what he was, and worse..." He met her gaze, held it as he said, "Jack told me, should I find myself in difficulty, that I should tell Jones that Jack Sparrow had sent me to settle his debt." He gave a bitter laugh. "Told me it might save my life."
Elizabeth blinked slowly. "He told you that?"
Will nodded, teeth clenched as he remembered. "There were two survivors on the wreck, poor souls, terrified beyond their wits. His men made us kneel and Jones offered each man a choice; a hundred years of service aboard the Dutchman, or the Locker."
"And so you told him Jack had sent you?"
"You think me a fool, for trusting him? I knew, even as I said it... But what choice did I have?"
Elizabeth looked away, tugging her hands from Will's and pulling her knees to her chest. "None," she said softly, her rasping voice shaking.
He reached out to comfort her. "Elizabeth, I know you wanted to believe in him, but-"
"Oh Will..." She turned and he saw tears in her wide eyes. "Don't you see? It did save your life, it saved you from that terrible choice."
He was silent a moment, heart thudding hard and low. When he spoke, it was with some effort to restrain his surprise. "Jack couldn't have known that."
"Couldn't he?" She shook her head and looked away. "Will, he must have known Jones wouldn't accept anyone but himself in payment of his debt. Had it had been that easy, why not send one of his crew? Or any Tortuga drunkard? He needed the key, and he needed to get you aboard the Dutchman to find it." She sighed, hanging her head. "No. No, it will not do. It will not do as the crime for which I condemned him."
"It seems to me," Will said, pushing himself irritably to his feet, "that you are determined to think well of him, no matter what he does. But remember this; Jack Sparrow sold his soul for the sake of a ship. How much less do you think he values your soul? Or anyone else's." Anger rising with every step, he left her. "Ease your guilt, by all means, Elizabeth. Bring him back from the dead, if you dare. But don't ever make the mistake of trusting him again."
And with that he stalked across the deck in search of his daily ration of water, a half cup that would barely wet his throat in this bitter ocean desert.
Frederick Mercer stepped from the shadows of The Blue Anchor just as his quarry loped past, and with a fast hand he reached out to seize the ragged man's shoulder. "Is it done?"
The man, Didier, twisted easily from his grip and turned to face him in a dangerous crouch, a blade in his hand. "Him have de letter," he said in a low voice, glancing past Mercer toward the docks. "I see him read it, wit' a face sad as de girl."
Mercer felt a swift bloom of satisfaction, but was careful to hide it from this fugitive slave. The man had been bold enough to seek out Lord Beckett's offices that very morning, offering information in exchange for gold, and Mercer knew better than to give him anything he might be able to sell to another bidder. "Very well," he said, reaching into his pocket and tossing the man a sovereign. "Your friend was found in town today, face down in a gutter with a knife between his ribs. Wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
The man eyed the coin, then swiftly hid it somewhere about his person, as a sly grin split his face. "You ask me to get de letter. Now you question how I do it?"
Mercer shook his head. "None of my concern what you get up to amongst your own kind. Be gone now. If I see you hereabouts again I'll stick you like a pig. Do you hear me?"
With a nod of his head and a curl of his lip, the man turned and faded into the darkness of the Port Royal night.
For himself, Mercer turned to walk in the opposite direction. But as he walked his hand slid beneath his coat and pressed against the paper he held there; a faithful copy of Miss Swann's heartfelt letter to her dear Papa. He smiled, imagining Beckett's pleasure at the interception, and knowing that this success would be richly rewarded. He could almost taste the gold already...
"And how did this... gentleman come upon the letter?"
Mercer glanced at James Norrington - beg pardon, Admiral Norrington - without bothering to disguise his contempt. For had he not seen the man sprawled in Tortuga pig shit and jug bitten as a whore? "An opportunity arose and it's my understanding that he took it," he said quietly, and returned his attention to the real power in the room. "The messenger came from Haiti, from the swamps."
Cutler Beckett still had his back turned, gazing through the French doors and out across the dark port. He'd said nothing since he'd read the letter, merely risen from his desk and moved to stand at the window. But there had been something in his expression... Mercer was no fool, and he could read a man's face easy as he could read a book. Whatever his emotion on reading the letter, Beckett was doing his best to conceal it. And that was information Mercer could use, should the need arise.
"She's escaped Jones," Norrington prattled on. "Although God knows how, given their frankly desperate situation when I...left."
Mercer cut him another look, but his gaze didn't linger long. James Norrington was a broken man, destroyed by his failure and by what he'd had to do in order to restore his dignity. Naught but a shadow now, he held no power that Beckett did not give him. And he knew it.
"Jack Sparrow is lost," Beckett said suddenly. "He has passed beyond the edge of the world, and I must find him." He turned, the letter tight in his fingers. "What, gentlemen, do you suppose she means by that?"
"Jones told you he was dead," Mercer said. "Do you doubt him?"
Norrington snorted. "Jones' idea of 'dead' is somewhat approximate, Mr. Mercer. As is Jack Sparrow's..." His smile was curt. "You were not at the battle of Isla de Muerta."
"And you were," Beckett cut in, stepping forward with a strange kind of eagerness. "You believe, then, that Sparrow yet lives?"
"Perhaps," Norrington said carefully. "In a manner of speaking."
Beckett nodded, his bright eyes fixed on the Admiral. "And in your expert opinion, knowing, as you do, both Sparrow and Miss Swann, do you believe that the lovely Elizabeth might risk all to save this pirate from his doom?"
Mercer smiled as Norrington flinched and looked away, his mouth pressing into a tight line. "Possibly, if she's not become enamoured of Jones in the meantime. Her affections certainly seem to be spiralling downward, toward ever increasing infamy."
Beckett's gaze dipped once more to the letter. "I must say," he mused, as though discussing the latest dispatches from London, "that the girl went to extraordinary lengths to ensure Jack Sparrow's freedom." His eyes flicked to Norrington. "I remember remarking upon myself, when she held a gun to my head and forced my signature upon the letters of Marque that bore his name."
Tight lipped, Norrington made no answer and Mercer allowed himself a snigger at the man's expense. "No doubt Sparrow's shagged her blind by now. I've heard say the bugger could charm the britches off King George himself."
His laughter withered, though, beneath Beckett's murderous glare. "I'll thank you to keep such vile calumny to yourself, man."
"My apologies, sir," he muttered, bowing his head in due deference. "Meant naught by it, but the illustration of my belief that you're right. I've seen 'em together too, don't forget, and don't doubt the girl's enamoured of the brigand; dare say she'd sail to the ends of the earth to save him from Jones." Cautiously he lifted his gaze, catching a small, knowing smile flicker across Norrington's lips, and wondered what the man knew about Beckett that he did not.
"Shall I summon Jones, sir?" Norrington said into the silence that had fallen. "Send him to dispatch Sparrow, should he return from his watery grave?"
"No." Beckett's anger had faded and in its place came a devious smile. "No, I shall handle Jack Sparrow myself. There is unfinished business between us that I would have resolved before he hangs."
Norrington, ever wanting imagination, frowned. "But how-?"
"We shall bait a trap for Captain Sparrow and his friends, one they can't possibly resist. Norrington, see to it that in every port across the Caribbean, the Americas, and the Spanish Main, this proclamation is made; on the third Sunday after Easter, former Governor Weatherby Swann shall be hung atop the fort at Port Royal, and his body thereafter placed in a gibbet, as warning to all those who would continue to collaborate or trade with pirates."
Norrington's jaw dropped open, his wide eyes eloquent in their outrage. Wisely, however, he held his tongue and Beckett seemed heedless of the man's dismay as his gaze slid to Mercer. "You will be ready. When they come to his rescue, we will take them."
"Yes, sir," Mercer smiled with a bow. "You can count on it."
The water was gone. Gibbs said they had been seven days now in these doldrums, though Elizabeth was unsure how he measured the passage of time; if night had come, she couldn't remember it. All that existed was the scalding sun that blistered their skin and cracked the wood of the sloop as she floated aimlessly, like a leaf on a pond. There was little movement on deck, for activity seemed futile now, and no one spoke; even the idle chatter of Pintel and Ragetti had ceased, as if the words had dried in their parched throats.
There were two, though, among their number who seemed unaffected by this pitiless heat and uncompromising ocean. Barbossa and Tia Dalma stood close together, silent and watchful, like rooks in a cemetery. Elizabeth wondered why the thirst did not trouble them as it did the others onboard, but then she supposed that perhaps a man who had only recently returned to the realm of the living had no need for water. And as for Tia Dalma... Elizabeth had long been of the opinion that all was not as it seemed with the woman from the swamp. Gibbs called her witch, yet there was something in her aspect, in the flash of her eyes and the curve of her smile that spoke of magic beyond mere bell, book and candle.
"What are they waiting for, do you suppose?" she asked Will, as he lay alongside her on the hard deck, seeking what little shade was offered by the limp sails.
"Same thing as the rest of us," he replied in a dry, cracked voice.
Will made to push himself up onto his elbow, but halfway through seemed to lose momentum and sank back, lethargically, onto the deck. "Elizabeth, look around you." She complied, puzzled. "What do you see?"
"Nothing," she said, with a shrug.
"Nothing," echoed Will. "No land, no other ships. Not even a bird in the sky. We've floated for nigh on a week without a breeze to carry us forward and now the water is gone. What is it that you think we might be waiting on?"
"Stop it, Will." His earlier ire had dissipated and there was a weight to his voice that scared her. She wished that he would leap up and demand, irrationally, impetuously, that Barbossa do something to get them out of these damned doldrums. But that fire and spirit were absent now, quenched utterly in the savage glare of this strange sun as it wandered through the heavens. He blinked, listlessly, and turned away.
"I have no wish to argue with you, Elizabeth. What is to be gained by it?"
And suddenly Elizabeth was glad of his indifference, for what, indeed, was to be gained by words; what need was there for conflict when death hung, hot and heavy, upon them and their charred bones would float forever on these accursed seas. That sorrowful night in Tia Dalma's shack, this quest to find Jack had seemed foolhardy enough, but in her aching heart there burned a need to set things right and, as the chorus of 'Ayes' had echoed in the tiny room, Elizabeth had thought that hope remained for reparation of all wrongs. They would find Jack and the world would be bright once more.
But there persisted an insidious whisper that spoke of the folly of such an endeavour. That whisper was louder now, drowning out all else. Look, it hissed in her ear. Look at what you've become. Betrayer and murderer, you drag those around you to their deaths. Are their lives worth some selfish pursuit of forgiveness?
"That's not why I'm here!" Her cry was brittle and hoarse, yet no one on deck bothered asking to whom she spoke. Beside her Will's body lay limp and unmoving and, in some distant part of her mind, Elizabeth wondered if he was already dead. She noticed that tiny trickles of seawater had begun to push their way through the wooden boards of the deck.
Then why are you here?
"To rescue Jack." The water was rising, seeping into her clothes and boots.
And what importance is he to you?
But Elizabeth had no answer to give.
Jack is lost and you along with him...
The last remnants of her strength left her and she fell backwards onto the deck, her hair clouding around her in the pool that was now at least six inches deep. She turned to Will just as the water crept over his face, submerging him completely.
He's going to drown, she thought idly, but felt no inclination to stop it from happening and all the while the voice still whispered.
Let go, let go, let go...
And so she did. But as the first trickle of salt water flooded her mouth, the whisper abated and instead she heard Barbossa's crowing laughter. "Now we'll be getting to where we're going!" he brayed.
Then the ship sank and she heard no more.
Continued in Chapter Four