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At World's End: Redux 6/27
by Laura (fried_flamingo)
at June 8th, 2008 (08:59 pm)
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Chapter Six


The sea shifted, sighed, and whispered uneasily to its master. He felt its disquiet, felt it stir the saltwater blood in his veins; something moved in the deep, something bright and bitter. Something that had no right to disturb the barren wastes of his soulless sea.

Davy Jones lifted a head encrusted with the weight of the ages and listened to the waves murmur. He returns, they hushed. The bargain is struck... Blood must be spilt. One of your own, one of your own...

"Never," growled Jones. Yet in his pocket he could feel the pulsating power of the Coin as it called to him, drawing him back, demanding payment of the debt. With a curse, he pulled it out, crushed it between the razor edges of his claw. But it would not be destroyed, would not be dented. Would not be silenced...

"Captain?" The boson stood blinking amid his shifting, decaying body; a man of the sea now. As were they all.

"I'm not to be disturbed!" Jones shouted, thundering across his cabin with murder on his mind.

The boson scuttled back, gesturing toward the deck above. "But he's here."

Jones stopped, detecting a shift in the air. "Beckett," he spat. "He dares board my ship?"

The boson didn't answer, but he had no need. While that wretched, grasping man ruled the heart... Jones could feel it still, the echo of a pain so unquenchable the very oceans could not sate it. And the ghosts crowded closer now that the heart had been disturbed, battering at him with their promises and pleas. Memories, touches. Betrayal, bitter as myrrh. "What does he want?"

The boson shrugged. "To talk to you, Captain."

"I'll be at no man's beck and call," Jones growled. "Tell Cutler Beckett that if he wants to see the Captain, he'll have to come below."

He turned away from the door, his eyes drawn to the music box that sat upon the organ; a heart of silver that felt no pain, no loss, that could not know the bitter sting of love unwanted and discarded. Oh, that he had possessed such a heart...

"A rather petty attitude, Jones." Beckett's voice grated as he descended the steps from the top deck. "Need I remind you that I hold your life in my hands?"

Jones turned on him, the blade at his side singing to be used - to taste blood and cleave flesh. Soon, he promised it. Soon... "Need I remind you, that this is my ship?"

Beckett glanced about with elaborate disdain. "Hardly."

"What do you want here?" Jones stalked as far away as possible from the little man; his stench of frustrated lusts and disappointment was unbearable.

"Your cooperation." In his hand Beckett held a paper. Jones made no move to take it and with an irritated sigh Beckett said, "It's a leaflet, proclaiming the imminent hanging of Governor Weatherby Swann in Port Royal."

"Of what interest is that to me?"

Beckett gave a thin smile, but his eyes betrayed an impious excitement. "Because it is a trap, set to capture Jack Sparrow."

"I told you, Sparrow is already mine. Safe in the Locker for eternity."

"Be that as it may," Beckett replied, folding the paper and returning it to his breast pocket, "I have it on good authority that Elizabeth Swann - daughter of the unlucky Governor - has sailed to retrieve Sparrow from this 'Locker' of yours. And upon their return—"

He returns. The bargain is struck...

"There is no return from the Locker!" Jones spat, almost laughed. "The girl is a fool to think there is, and you are twice a fool for believing her."

Beckett lifted an eyebrow. "Do not underestimate the power of girlish affection, Captain Jones. Elizabeth Swann, I assure you, has already demonstrated that she will go to great lengths to ensure the safety of Jack Sparrow."

Something turned within him, in the place where his heart had once been; a lump of gristle that harboured all his malice. "She loves him, then? Betrayed the Turner boy, has she?"

"Perhaps," Beckett agreed mildly. "But she also loves her father. Once she has returned with Sparrow they will—"

"Love has no place in the Locker," Jones growled. "Nor hope. None return from those desolate shores, though they might weep for death's release."

"Quite tiresome," Beckett sighed. "My point is this; Jack Sparrow is mine, and you are not to interfere with his capture. Do you understand?"

"I understand that he thirsts in the Locker, unable to-"

A shiver of running water, gentle waterfalls over skin and face. Rising. Slowly rising...

Jones shook his head, clearing it of the strange sensation. "-unable to drink, to eat, tormented by Devils of his own devising, he-"

The sea sighs, the song cascades like rain, and the sun rises through darkness. Hope spreads its rainbow ink, infusing the oceans with bright, impossible colours.

Blood must be spilt. One of your own...


"What's the matter?" Beckett's voice was a snap of irritation. Jones paid him no mind, closing his eyes, listening to the ocean's barren whisperings.

He returns. The bargain has been struck... Hope rises, hope rises...

"No." It's a growl, he can hear it through the murmur of the waves, feel it rattle in his empty chest. "No, I will not permit it!"

The dove flies free. Ebony sails snap in the morning breeze. And hope rises ever on... He has returned! Blood must be spilt. One of your own, one of your-

"Impossible!" With sweep of outrage, Jones hurled the coin to the far corner of the cabin, heard it land with a defiant sparkle of sound that echoed like refracted sunlight about the dark room. But it could not banish the rushing of water in his ears, nor the image of that cursed black ship rising like a Titan from the depths.

Beckett took a step backward, tugging nervously at his shirt sleeves. "I assume this melodrama is to some purpose?"

Jones skewered him with a stare that had pressed many a man into the Dutchman's service. In a shifting moment he stood before Beckett; he could taste his fear and the ache of his pathetic betrayal. Oh, how he hungered, how he yearned! How he loved, how he hated, and how he despised himself for such weakness. Reaching out, Jones brushed the man's cheek with a tendril of flesh and felt Beckett shudder. How alike they were in their appetites; revenge became a savoury dish when forgiveness tasted so foul. He answered Beckett's question with one word. "Sparrow."

"Ah." A note of self-disgust overlapped the man's breathless excitement. "So he does live, then."

"So it seems."

In the corner of the cabin, the coin hummed with a power that would not be denied and the sea kept whispering her warning. The bargain is struck... Blood must be spilt. One of your own, one of your own... So said the prophesy, but it would not come to pass; this debt would never be settled, be there the Devil and all to pay. For he would send every swaggering Pirate Lord screaming to the Locker before he allowed the Harlot of the Seas one hour of freedom.

Jones took a step closer, placing his arm about Beckett's narrow shoulders and ignoring the man's obvious revulsion. "Tell me, boy," he breathed, "what do you know of the Brethren of the Coast and their wicked plot to bring about the downfall of your empire...?"

***


They rose in darkness amid a gentle rain that became a deluge - a falling mountain of water that opened like an oyster shell to reveal wide blue skies and the sun cresting the horizon.

Tia Dalma smiled into the dawn. "Hope rise," she said, as if that explained everything. "Him return to de path destiny carve."

Elizabeth caught the look Barbossa slid her, a guarded smile of cunning patience. His hand, she noticed, stroked the rail of the Pearl like a lover and she thought he might try to seize her for his own. Had she not been Barbossa's ship for ten years? That was not a bond easily broken.

But Jack had a firm hand on the helm, his gaze fixed on the horizon, hair fluttering in the soft breeze. In the morning sunlight he seemed less bleak, no longer cast in shades of grey, but even so he was not himself; his eyes, fractured mirrors, reflected everything in pieces. When he caught her eye, Elizabeth saw nothing but darkness.

She'd thought, in her naivety, that once he'd been rescued - once her betrayal had been undone - the horror would be over. But that had been a child's dream, clung to in desperation before she journeyed to the Locker's haunted shores, and she could cling to it no more. For now she had lived his death, felt the unendurable agony of the Kraken's bite, and known the desolation of a trust betrayed. She had seen him break, scatter to the wind and, in the wild men of the Locker, she had witnessed his self loathing rage, his hatred, and despair. She saw them still, those strange spectres; she saw them in the splintered darkness of his gaze.

Jack Sparrow had returned, but he was not the trickster legend he had once been. Fragile as a broken vase, a single touch could see him shatter - a single look. His gaze brushed hers only fleetingly, darting back to the empty horizon.

Tears filled her eyes, grief and guilt entwined; he was, it seemed, unable to even look at her.

"Well," Gibbs said with a scratch of his whiskers. "Where be we now?"

Jack's voice was hollow. "Back."

"Aye, but where?"

Elizabeth looked around, turning in a slow circle; the horizon surrounded her without interruption and without landmark. "We could be anywhere in the world!"

"Not anywhere." Will climbed to his feet from where he sat on the quarterdeck steps. "Surely we're wherever we were when we...sank. Aren't we?"

Gibbs glanced at him. "We'd been drifting a week in the doldrums, lad; do you know our position when we left this world?"

"Well..." Will folded his arms and jutted out his chin. "I'm a blacksmith, not a sailor. How would I know where-?"

"We're a day's sail north-north-east of Haiti," Jack said quietly. "Gibbs, set a course; we need provisions, we need water. And we need a bloody crew."

"We need rum," Gibbs said, with feeling.

"Especially that."

"Tortuga?"

A fleeting smile twisted Jack's lips, but left his eyes dark. "Aye, Tortuga." With that he stepped back from the wheel and Gibbs took his place; Barbossa looked on in silence and smiled.

With no trace of his customary swagger, Jack stalked toward the captain's cabin, passing Elizabeth as if she didn't exist. Refusing to be intimidated, she fell in at his side. "Jack, I want to say how-"

He stopped dead, turning on his heel to face her, one finger raised in warning. "No apologies, Miss Swann. Not on an empty stomach."

"But will you not let me-?"

"No. I'll not." He leaned closer and, for the first time since they'd met, she felt nothing but hostility from him. Very quietly he hissed, "You're a child, meddling in matters that are none of your concern. You've no idea what you've done, Elizabeth, feeding me to Jones's beast. No idea what you set in motion by bringing me back." His dark gaze slid to Tia Dalma, where she stood silently at Barbossa's side. "Do you think they offer their help freely? Did you even ask about the price to be paid?" When she didn't answer, he said. "I thought not."

Elizabeth lifted her chin. "I would gladly pay any price for your return, Jack."

"Aye." His splintered eyes gleamed. "But who's to say it's going to be you paying the price, eh?"

He walked away before she could answer, and when she looked across the deck she found herself caught by Tia Dalma's penetrating gaze and thought, for the first time, that there was something terrible about the woman. Something inhuman.

Stomach turning, she retreated to where Will stood near the steps; he, it seemed, was the only person left aboard who she could comprehend. The only person she could trust.

***



Shipwreck Cove was a city of Keepers: the Keeper of the Fleet, the Keeper of the Quay, the Keeper of the Court, and the Keeper of the Code. Each solemn duty had been passed down the ages, from father to son, and they were the guardians of the world's most ancient secrets

The Keepers were known, and accorded the respect their burdens demanded, by all those who crowded the ramshackle streets and allies of Shipwreck's great city. Their names were known by all who sought to dock at its bustling port, by all those who ventured, for the first time, so far from the edges of maps men made.

All men knew the Keepers of the Cove.

Or so they thought.

But deep in the secret bones of the city, where no one ever ventured, walked a man with a single lantern held high against the dark. This, was the Keeper of the Prophesy and his burden was unknown to any in the Cove, and to few beyond. He stopped as he entered the cavern and watched the lamplight glow against the ancient words etched upon the walls as surely as they were etched into his heart:

And one of our own shall be given in restitution to the Goddess, and he shall be her vassal and shall bear her tempests for the turning of two hundred years, until the debt is paid. Death shall be his sacrifice and his only reward.

Captain Morgan Teague ran ancient fingers over the words and knew they foretold the end times. "Bring it here," he said quietly. "Place it in the centre of the room." Behind him came two men, their eyes wide and mouths shut. Sworn to it, they were, 'til the end of their days, however long that might be. He feared, not long at all. Tilting his head, Teague looked up at the smoke-stained ceiling above; it was lost in shadow yet it seemed that he could see right through it, to the night sky beyond. And even here, beneath the weight of the city, he could feel the heat that scorched the heavens tonight.

And they shall know that the debt is due by myriad signs and marvels, and the first of these shall be the advent of the Midnight Sun that shall blaze in the Heavens for forty days and forty nights. If the debt be not paid before its light fades, then all light shall fade from the world of Men and they shall live forever beneath the darkness of Tyranny and Fear.

The Midnight Sun had blazed across the sky for two nights now, and even the heat of noon could not dazzle its baleful presence. Teague had watched it from the summit of the Cove, studied it through his spy glass, and felt his blood run cold at the events it heralded.

"Here, Captain?" The gruff request was made with lowered eyes and unsteady voice.

"Aye, in the centre," he replied, watching as they set the ancient anvil in its place. The sea had preserved it well, he thought, kept it free of rust and crustaceans before she spat it out to rest upon the island's rocky shore. He had found it there at first light - drawn to the beach by powers beyond his own – and knew it as another harbinger of destiny. The anvil gleamed wetly, tar-black and heavy as the men dropped it into place. And as its weight struck rock, it sang out, the iron-song reverberating through the cavern with the unearthly music of the forge.

The bell has been raised from it's watery grave... Do you hear it's sepulchral tone?

Teague shivered and turned away, back to the prophesy cut deep into the rock. He'd known this day would come for over four decades, planned for it, secretly plotted against it - moved his pieces slowly, deliberately, over the years. But each feint had been blocked, each trap misfired, and now the Song had been sung, the Pirate Lords were summoned, and the end game had begun.

If he was to save that which was most precious to his heart, he must gamble the very world on the turn of a dice, and hope that fate had not weighted them in her favour...

***


The moon was high in the sky, a silver crescent casting little light, and overshadowed by the strange, wandering star that flared bright in the heavens. Tia Dalma had crowed when she'd first seen the sight, lifting her arms to the night in ecstatic greeting; Jack Sparrow, however, had cursed beneath his breath and turned away.

For himself, Will thought the skies beautiful, scattered as they were with diamonds that glittered against the night's perfect black. So different from that interminable twilight world from which they had returned, and Will found himself breathing deep, hoping for the loamy scent of land and earth. Of home.

But home was far away and his concerns weighed heavy upon his shoulders tonight. Elizabeth huddled below, curled against the bulkhead and refusing to sleep or talk. Will knew she had believed that Jack's return would salve her conscience and assuage her guilt, but whatever had transpired in the mists of the Locker, it was clear that Jack Sparrow had not forgiven her.

Will wasn't even sure that the man she had saved was the same man she had condemned, for this Jack Sparrow was bleak and dark, full of shadows that shifted across his face like a brooding storm. Will had sometimes seen men, unhinged by battle, wash up in Port Royal, and Jack Sparrow reminded him of nothing more than those shell-like men; he watched the world through death-tinted glass, and there was murder in the depths of his eyes.

Nonetheless, as much as Will would have preferred to leave Jack to his darkling thoughts, he had something to say and was determined to say it. So, though all but Gibbs kept their distance from the shadowed figure at the rail, Will squared his shoulders and approached - even if he did keep one hand upon his sword.

"Jack?"

There was a long, weary silence. Then, "William, to what do I owe this irritation?"

"You and I need to talk."

"I doubt that would be wise, boy."

"Nevertheless..." Drawing closer, some rolling form caught at the edge of Will’s vision. He turned quickly, but saw no more than shadow beneath the looming height of the forecastle. With a frown, he returned his attention to Jack. "I know what happened," he said, "I saw you and Elizabeth, that day aboard the Pearl."

"Did you now?"

"And I want you to know... I don't hold it against you."

Jack turned, the moonlight a pale gleam in his eyes. "Hold it against me? 'Twas her what betrayed us. Both of us, eh?"

"She had no choice." Will said it firmly, determined to believe it. For surely, had there been any other way, she'd not have played Delilah and seduced him to his death?

"No choice?" Jack smiled to himself. "You keep telling yourself that, mate, if it makes you feel better." He turned back to the rail, gazing up at the silver blaze in the heavens. "But there's always a choice, even if that choice is death."

"You can't blame her for this, Jack. Not when you're the one who sold your soul to the Devil. Your fate was of your own devising, all Elizabeth did was keep you from taking us with you."

He shrugged. "My fate was me own, aye. As was hers - she made the choice and must bear the consequences."

"And what are the consequences, Jack? Will you exact your revenge on her as you did on Barbossa?"

"Perhaps." His smile was bone-white in the darkness. "Why not?"

"Because this - all of this! - was your own doing, Jack! Had you not made your deal with Jones and-"

"You know nothing of that, lad, so hold your tongue. You know nothing of anything worth knowing."

"I know this," Will retorted. "I know that, had you let me stab the heart while we held it in our hands, then Davy Jones would be dead and my father would be free! Had you not put yourself before us all, then the heart would not have fallen into Beckett's hands, and-"

"And what, Will Turner?" Jack whirled from the rail and stalked closer, voice low and angry. "What do you imagine would have happened if I'd let you take Bootstrap's dagger and plunge it into the heart of Davy Jones. Tell me, what do you think would have happened?"

Will lifted his chin. "Jones would be dead."

"Aye," Jack agreed. "And who would be Captain of the Dutchman in his stead?"

"Doesn't matter, so long as he freed my father."

"Doesn't matter, he says. Did you hear that? Doesn't matter..." Jack's eyes suddenly sharpened, as if recalling where he stood. "Think it would have mattered, William, when you found yourself stood upon the deck of that cursed ship with an eternity stretching before you."

"What do you mean?"

Jack waved his hand toward the hatch, toward where Elizabeth rested below. "You and her, mate, don't know what you're about. Come meddling in affairs what don't concern you and about which you know bloody nothing." He scowled, rubbing a hand across his face, then pressed his palm against his brow, as if trying to stifle a headache. "The Dutchman must always have a captain, see? And so him what stabs the heart of Davy Jones is doomed to take his place at the helm - ferryman of the dead, and immortal consort of the goddess. Had I let you, that would have been your fate, son. And young Miss Swann would have found herself widowed before her wedding."

Will sighed. "Do you think me a fool, Jack, to believe such stories?"

"I'd think you a fool not to."

"A goddess?" Jack had always been strange, but this lunacy stretched even Will's credulity too far. "If it's true, then why didn't you tell me so at the time? If I remember right - which I do - you wouldn't let me stab the heart because then there'd have been no one to call off the Kraken."

Jack's gaze was dark, too knowing. "And was I wrong?"

A silence fell between them and Will found he had no answer; his anger on Isle Cruces had been keen as the blade at his side. Had the opportunity arisen, would he have spared Jack his fate? With a sigh, he shook his head. "This is madness."

"Something else about which you know painfully little, boy." Jack turned away, retreating into the shadows. "I've told you the truth, and you’d be wise to listen. For, whether you believe it or not, the goddess has you marked for her own purpose."

"And what purpose would that be?"

"A deep and dangerous one, mate. Deep and dangerous. Blood must be spilt, so they say." Jack scowled and muttered something under his breath, sinking deeper into darkness. "Keep a sharp eye, William Turner. Keep a bloody sharp eye..."

***


Turgat Hizir had no patience for fools. And the man slipping slowly from the end of his cutlass had, undoubtedly, been a fool. "I said," Hizir repeated slowly, "that I would speak to the Pirate King, and no other."

There was a shuffling of feet among the ragged sailors who had greeted him in this strange graveyard of a city. "There ain't one!" someone piped up in a rough, uncultured accent. "Not been one for years, mate. Just the Keepers now."

This was not what Hizir had expected, not what his father had taught him during the long hard apprenticeship of his youth. Neither was it what his grandfather had passed on, nor his father before him.

When the Song is sung, you must take the Coin to Shipwreck Island - a place only the Invited can find - and there you must present your services to the Pirate King, and subject yourself to him and no other.

Behind him, his ship rocked at anchor, barely having survived the journey through the hellish passage that guarded this strange isle. A galley was not suited to the high seas, but Turgat's blood was Corsair and he would not arrive at such a gathering in a ship of the Kafir. He had nearly not arrived at all, in fact. Yet somehow, when hope had been lost and the Meshuda had been close to swamped, the rocks of Shipwreck Island had emerged from the mist and beckoned to them with rocky arms. And now here he stood, his cutlass bloodied and the Coin pendant humming and hot against the bare skin of his chest.

"Make way! Make way for the Keeper of the Code!" Someone was shouting from further down the wharf, pushing men aside at the back of the suspicious crowd. At the sound of his voice they melted away with much shuffling and muttering to form a path along the rickety quay.

Hizir carefully cleaned his cutlass on the sash at his waist, but did not sheath the weapon. Behind him, his men stirred to readiness for there was that in the air which spoke of threat. It solidified in the form of a man, his face folded and creased by time, as though he wore the pattern of his life there for all to see, yet he walked with the swagger and purpose of a much younger man. A dangerous man. His hair, long and black, was matted and bedecked with baubles and trinkets in the way of uncivilized natives, and his eyes glistened like midnight diamonds. "I'm Teague." His voice was little more than a growl, a rumble of breakers upon the shore. "Keeper of the Code."

"Turgat Hizir," he replied, "Captain of the Meshuda, Lord of the Ottoman Corsairs. I speak for the Barbary Coast at the Brethren Court."

The man, Teague, nodded. "Then you are welcome, brother. Come," he gestured toward the towering, tottering mass of wreckage, "there are matters to discuss."

Hizir glanced over his shoulder towards his men.

"You alone," growled Teague. "So says the Code; each Pirate Lord shall enter the Court alone and unarmed."

"And if I refuse?"

Teague's eyes glittered in anticipation. "He who kills a Pirate Lord becomes a Pirate Lord. Lest you wish to pass the duty on…?"

"The duty is mine," Hizir replied, handing his cutlass to Kemal who stood at his right shoulder. "Let us be done with this heathen nonsense."

"Nonsense?" Teague bared a mouthful of golden teeth in what might have been a smile. "Call it nonsense, do you, lad?"

"There is no God but Allah," Hizir replied stonily. "I honour my grandfather's memory by answering your call, but do not expect me to believe in your sea goddess, nor your heathen rituals."

"The Song has been sung, our need is dire. Have y'not felt the scourge of the Dutchman in your waters?"

"Rumours," Hizir replied. "The Spanish, it is true, press our territory and bombard our harbours."

"Not just the Spanish," Teague said beginning to walk back to the city. "French, British, Dutch. Power's shifting, the Tyranny of Man is upon us. And so it will remain, if the debt's not paid and the balance restored."

"If this 'goddess' of yours is not freed?" Hizir did not attempt to keep the sneer from his voice.

"Terrible choice, eh? The Tyranny of Man, which will bring an end to the Brethren - an end to piracy everywhere - or the freedom of the goddess, who will wreak her dread vengeance upon us all."

Hizir made no answer to that, for his attention was caught by a flicker in the man's expression as he said 'upon us all'. Not a lie, no, but something hidden - something unspoken. There were secrets here, among these heathen men. Secrets and danger.

But if, as it seemed, there was no Pirate King to serve, then surely he owed them no fealty? He owed them no debt of honour. Hizir smiled; opportunities abounded in this strange place and it would behoove him to remain vigilant if he was to profit from this, the final meeting of the Brethren Court.

***


The town was strange and distorted, as if viewed through the thick glass bottom of a rum bottle. Voices cackled like demented harpies, faces twisted themselves into demons and gargoyles and the streets stank like a bilge. Jack Sparrow shrank into the shadows of a nearby alley, retreating from the hellish riot of sound and colour, and clutched his head; it had ached something damnable ever since the Pearl had brought him back to Caribbean bloody sea.

A strange journey, to say the least, yet neither Jack nor his perfidious crew had questioned it, or even been alarmed when the newly resurrected ship had plunged them beneath the strange black waters of the Locker. Nor had they questioned it when they'd found themselves surging upwards, out of the ocean, sea water cascading over the Pearl's decks, just as the fledgling rays of a new sun severed sea from sky over the eastern horizon.

Jack had stood a while, at the helm, watching the light purple at the edge of the world and trying to remember what it felt like to long for that ever moving prize and its promise of freedom. But the rose-glow in the sky had held no beauty for him and dawn looked very much like dusk; the birth of a day was indistinguishable, almost, from its death. As Jack had turned from the sight, he'd caught Elizabeth watching him, an incongruous mix of concern and trepidation in her gaze. He'd looked away quickly, fighting to quell the bile-sting in the back of his throat.

Finding themselves close to Haiti, it had seemed only natural to head for the one place where the phrase 'safe haven' still held true; the place that would shelter them in its embrace, while picking their pockets clean.

Tortuga.

But as his boots had thudded onto the wood of the rickety pier, Jack had felt himself splinter again. Too many people here, too many voices. They cut him open, slashed at his skin and he was being torn apart once more. The agony was real and overwhelming. And so he ran. Someone had called after him. Then Gibbs' voice. Haven’t you done enough? Leave him be for a while, Miss.

He'd found himself drowning in a sea of bodies, suffocating, sinking, until he'd fallen into the darkness of the alley. Even now, though, silence was beyond his reach, but this time the clamouring voices belonged to no one but himself.

"So you've come back, have you?" hissed the dark figure that crouched in the shadows.

"So it would appear," replied Jack, not sure if he was speaking aloud.

"And to what point and purpose, mate?"

"Couldn't stay there, could I? With naught but meself and a sliver of rum for company. Would've lost me wits eventually."

"And who's to say you haven't?" The figure crept forward, but not far enough that his face left the shadows. "Would a sane man be conversing with phantoms in alleyways? Seems to me you’re coming apart, son. Seems to me you might've lost a few pieces somewhere along the way."

"No," whispered Jack. "No, she came for me. She brought me back."

"Aye, that she did," hissed the voice. "Sent you to the depths then dragged you back out. Whatever's left of you anyway. Perhaps a greater mercy would've been granting you oblivion."

Jack squeezed his eyes shut, desperate to rid himself of the crouching, shuffling spectre that had slouched from the shadows. When he opened them again, the figure was gone, but the words he had spoken echoed still. Coming apart, he was, and each fragment that fell away revealed more of the chasm that yawned inside.

He slid down the wall, letting his head fall into his hands; breath felt like a rock in his throat. As he stared at the ground, his gaze alighted on a scrap of paper, blown by an idle breeze along the alley, coming to rest face down on the toe of his boot. A word on a down-turned corner brought his attention into sharp focus.

Swann.

Snatching up the piece of paper, he scanned the writing and knew instantly what it was. A trap.

Let him swing, he thought. Let him know what it is to have the ground fall away from beneath your feet and feel bite of the rope around your neck. Only fitting that a man what has condemned others to such a fate should know the same terror.

But even as the thoughts formed his mind, he was moving, pushing himself to his feet and making his way out into the street once more. The proclamation of Weatherby Swann's execution was, without doubt, one of Cutler Beckett's less artfully laid traps, yet Jack knew it would send Elizabeth running to Port Royal. The only question left to ask himself was this: why was it that he fully intended to follow?

***


There was a spider web being woven in the rowdy public room of the Faithful Bride, strands of mistrust, spun thin and stretched taut between those present in the small, huddled group who sat in silence, giving stark contrast to the bedlam around them. To Will, it seemed that if he but turned the wrong way, he would become caught forever in those strands, not knowing who was on his side, not knowing what side he was on. Even allegiances that he had once thought steadfast and unshakable had proven to be built on quicksand.

Elizabeth sat across from him, stone-faced and pale, as distant and unattainable to him now as she had been for so many years; the governor's daughter, a prize that could never be claimed by a humble blacksmith. He had thought that barricade destroyed, that they belonged to each other now and that no obstacles would ever bar their path again. But there she sat, just a few feet from him, the distance an impossible gulf to cross. It was different now, he knew, and roads walked could not be unwalked, but none of this was planned and none of it seemed fair. Will wondered what gods had conspired to bring them to such a point.

Later, he thought. I'll fix it later. When it's over, when it's finished. I'll make it right again once all of this is done with.

"Easier back then was it?" For a brief moment Will was seized by the preposterous notion that his mind was suddenly speaking aloud to him. Then he turned and found Barbossa at his shoulder, wearing his customary grin, the one that spoke of knowledge of things dark and wicked.

"Was what easier?"

"Loving a princess in her tower. When you weren't permitted to touch. Was it easier to think her pure and not driven by human impulses?"

Will frowned and turned away to study the wood of the table. "I don't know what you mean."

"Ah, but I think you do, Master Turner. The governor's daughter is more familiar with the evils of man than you were previously wont to suppose. Look at her."

Reluctant as he was to tolerate the pirate's ramblings, Will couldn't help but lift his gaze to Elizabeth as she sat hunched on the chair, apparently oblivious to all around.

"She is beautiful, is she not?" continued Barbossa. "Such skin, such hair, such lips..."

Will spun in his chair, unwilling to let the man continue with his perusal of his fiancée’s attributes. "Barbossa, I'll..."

"Hush, boy. Let's not pretend that your sweetheart is as unsullied as the first bud of spring, when there's not a person here present who doesn't now know what she did to Jack. Look closer, boy. Look past the flawless skin, into those eyes. Tell me what you see there."

Will refused to look; he knew to what Barbossa alluded. "Nothing," he said. "I see nothing."

"Do you, boy? Can you tell me, without fear of damnation, that you don't see what rages in your young lover's soul? Cruelty? Sin?" He leaned in closer, his voice a low hiss in Will's ear. "Desire?"

The sound of Will's chair being thrown back and his sword drawn was lost amid the din of the tavern, but the group gathered around the table were suddenly alert, ready for whatever trouble might be afoot. From the corner of his eye, Will saw Elizabeth rise to her feet in alarm.

"Will?" But he didn't reply, couldn't even turn to look at her. Instead he focussed on the tip of his sword where it grazed Barbossa's neck. The pirate began to chuckle.

"'Tis not me your fight be with, Master Turner. Now put your sword away lest the morning dew should rust it, eh?"

Before Will could move however, footsteps approached from behind and he heard the voice of that one man who had been conspicuously missing from amongst their number all evening.

"Elizabeth."

Slowly, Will lowered his sword and, with a final scowl at the grinning Barbossa, turned to see Jack standing by the table, a piece of paper clutched in his hand. He and Elizabeth were facing one another and, if Will had been troubled by the barriers between himself and his fiancée, it was nothing compared to the mountain looming between the two people before him. Elizabeth waited for Jack to speak again, but suddenly he looked around as if realising for the first time that there were others present.

"Come with me. I have to– Will you come?" With a frown, Elizabeth nodded uncertainly and, for the briefest of moments, Will saw Jack raise his hand as if to grasp her arm. Then his fingers balled into a fist and his arm fell by his side once more. With a final glance at Will, Elizabeth walked from the tavern, Jack Sparrow close on her heels.

"And I'll be assuming that you saw nothing in her eyes just then, either," said Barbossa at his back and Will's hand tightened around the hilt of his sword. Without a further word, he stalked from the tavern, unwilling to leave Elizabeth alone with Jack for a moment longer.

After a brief search, he saw them across the street, by the stables. Jack was handing Elizabeth the piece of paper Will had noticed him holding earlier. As he made to walk towards them, however, a sudden howl from Elizabeth halted him in his tracks. Her hand flew to her mouth and she fell forward, collapsing against Jack, who froze, arms raised like a man at the wrong end of a pistol.

You bastard, thought Will, alarmed by Elizabeth's obvious distress. You heartless bastard. Then he ran, pushing his way through the carousing crowd that lined the streets, towards Elizabeth who wept heedlessly against Jack's chest.

As he neared them, Jack caught his eye and what Will saw there made his steps falter. "Take her," said Jack, his voice hoarse, and Will reached out, grasping Elizabeth by the shoulders and turning her to him. He folded his arms around her shaking body and gave her what comfort he could. There was no need to ask what was wrong, for there was only one thing in the world that she cared about enough to provoke such emotion.

"Governor Swann?" The question was addressed to Jack, who nodded. "When?"

"Third Sunday after Easter." Elizabeth's sobs had stilled somewhat, though she still didn't speak, and Will smoothed his hand, soothingly, over the back of her head. "It's a trap, y'know," said Jack, lifting his chin and regarding him carefully.

"I know. We still have to go."

"Easy for you to say, William. You ain't the one they're after."

"And what makes you so sure that its you they want?"

Jack shrugged. "Mate, I'm Captain Jack Sparrow."

"Then give us the Pearl. You can remain in Tortuga until we return."

"And what reassurance have I got that you would return? I ain't leaving me ship in the care of that walking corpse in there," said Jack, gesturing to the Bride.

Will took a breath, angered and frustrated by Jack's belligerence. "Then do you mean to refuse us your help?" he asked desperately. Jack looked grave, and Will suddenly realised that he held the very leverage required to persuade him in his arms. "It's her father, Jack."

And for a moment Jack's gaze dropped, his eyes falling upon Elizabeth. His features remained impassive and yet Will thought he could see such sadness in the pirate's air. Jack blinked once, twice, then his eyes were on Will again. "To Port Royal," he said quietly.

Elizabeth turned in Will's arms, her hand still bunched in the fabric of his shirt. "Thank you, Jack," she said, her voice hitching in her throat.

And Jack's face was steel once more. "Don't thank me, love. For I'm not doing this out of the goodness of me heart. Once your old man's rescued, I expect to be left to me own devices, along with me ship."

But I need your ship, was Will's first thought. His second thought, however, was Think like Jack. And so he decided to do whatever was required to turn this situation to his favour. He would deal with the consequences later.

"Then we have an accord, Captain Sparrow," he said and stuck out his hand, which Jack shook firmly.

"Then we have an accord, Mr Turner."

Elizabeth nodded, pulling herself from Will's embrace, and set off in the direction of the harbour. Will watched her go and knew that he wasn't the only one.

***


Comments

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Posted by: awickedwench (awickedwench)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
Pirates

Love how you've taken the framework of what we saw in the movie and really developed the plot and storylines; this is the story I wanted to see. Love it!

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
song

Thank you so much. I'm so glad you're still enjoying it. It's from the next chapter onwards that the story starts to take a different tack from the movie and the plot is pretty much something we've concocted entirely by ourselves, so I can't wait to see what you think of it.

As always thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

Posted by: awickedwench (awickedwench)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)

Posted by: kenton_bomb (kenton_bomb)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)

I've been checking all day for an update and then it finally appeared!

Do I really need to say how wonderful it was and always is? I don't think so but I will anyway. Beautiful, fantastic work as always - the both of you.

I really like the idea of their being more than one Keeper and look forward to see the progression of that later on in the story.

As for Jack, I think its good how you've not made him forgive Elizabeth straight away like in a lot of stories but instead having him cold towards her and at the same time wanting to trus her again. He does care about her and we need only look at the part where he agrees to go to Port Royal and I think its important that Will understands this too [i]Will suddenly realised that he held the very leverage required to persuade him in his hands[/i]

Loved this installment and can't wait until Wednesday but then I won't be here for next Sunday's :( I'll have to catch up later.

Well done xx

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
ship

LOL! I'm really pleased you've been looking forward to it and that you enjoyed it.

As for Jack, I think he would definitely struggle with himself and would have a hard time forgiving her (despite the feelings we saw him hint at in the Locker).

Sorry you won't be here next Sunday, but I hope you get some time to catch up when you get back :)

Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Posted by: Bell B. (bellbubble)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)

I'm speechless... This is simply marvelous!! Can't wait to read what happens next!!

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
tyrant

Oh thank you so much! More to come on Wednesday :D

Posted by: wicked and astute (cortie)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
sexy smoke

This always makes my day much more better!

I'm totally sucked in and can't wait for the next bit. This is SO the movie that we all wanted to see but got boned out of by Disney. *shakes fist*

But anyhow, you are my new best friend and I'll be sitting here drooling on myself until the next chapter is posted.

Much love.


Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
pawn

I'm really pleased you're enjoying it. There were aspects of the movie that I thought had great potential but felt quite let down by how they were handled, so that was something that we both wanted to address when writing this story.

Thank you so much for your comment.

Posted by: KSena (kseenaa)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
Betrayal (Will) made by angrymobjustice

So far so good. Not going so well for Jack and Liz, but I guess, what with the pairing you like, it will solve itself sooner or later. And Will is slowly starting to plot, eh? 'Think like Jack'.... He turns dangerous when he does, alone or with company. :-) Well done so far.

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 8th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Redux

Glad you're enjoying. Jack and Elizabeth, like all the characters in the movies, have more than one dimension and, as with all human relationships, things aren't straightforward between them. The same can be said of Will and Elizabeth too.

And yes, Will is capable of being just as underhand as the next bloke.

Thanks for your comment.

Posted by: KSena (kseenaa)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)

Posted by: tuesday_suit (tuesday_suit)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
Hand up

"William, to what do I owe this irritation?"

BWAH! That made me laugh.

Love it all, of course. It's really fascinating to see how you two have delved deeper and more intricately into some of the elements of the film that were sadly neglected by the Mouse*, and I like seeing more of Teague and giving him a bit of his own story.

*TM Laura

"No," whispered Jack. "No, she came for me. She brought me back."

That scene with the unknown person in the alley (if he or she was really there) seemed to illuminate, at least for me, some of Jack's internal muddle - struggling with his hatred for Elizabeth, yet pulled toward her just the same. Coming apart indeed.

He and Elizabeth were facing one another and, if Will had been troubled by the barriers between himself and his fiancée, it was nothing compared to the mountain looming between the two people before him.

And yet she follows him without further comment or question.

And for a moment Jack's gaze dropped, his eyes falling upon Elizabeth. His features remained impassive and yet Will thought he could see such sadness in the pirate's air. Jack blinked once, twice, then his eyes were on Will again. "To Port Royal," he said quietly.

That last scene was lovely. Can't wait to see what trouble awaits them in Port Royal - and how they get out if it, of course. ;-)

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
Redux

Thanks, love! Glad you've managed to catch up and the jetlag is long gone :)

The scene in the alley is really our take on the multi-Jacks that accompanied him back from the Locker in the movie only not quite so comical ;)

struggling with his hatred for Elizabeth, yet pulled toward her just the same

That's the crux of it really and what makes Jack such a layered character - he's capable of more than one emotion at a time and many of those emotions can be extremely conflicting.

Really pleased you're enjoying it :D Next stop, Port Royal!

Edited at 2008-06-09 04:04 pm (UTC)

Posted by: gea_luv (gea_luv)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
pic14

Loved it, loved it, loved it!!

This particular chapter was heaven as I loved how it gave both the perspectives of Jack and Will and also interaction between the two. First, you wrote Will's character so perfectly; all brash and so...simple, to say the least. I really liked when Barbossa played the devil's voice on his shoulder, pushing him to see what he usually refuses to.

Onto Jack, perfect. Honestly, just PERFECT. His sanity, as we assumed, is in question yet through the sadness and anger, we still see that love for Elizabeth. Which brings me to the interaction between the two is again, spot on.

As he neared them, Jack caught his eye and what Will saw there made his steps falter.

Will watched her go and knew that he wasn't the only one.


These little tidbits were my favorites as the unsaid and fragile actions of Jack always do mean the most.

Wonderful chapter overall! And, as I always must ask, would fanart be alright? :) This fic has been the kick of inspiration I needed to get back on the sketching-horse.

Again, lovely :)

gea

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
navigator

Thanks so much :D

I think Will has a definite idea of how he wants to see the world, but circumstances rarely allow him that view, so I'm glad that's reading well for you.

Poor Jack is definitely at war with himself, quite literally, and is on the brink. It's on the turn of a coin to see which way he falls.

Thanks so much for your feedback and we would be absolutely honoured if you felt inspired to produce some fanart for this story. I can't wait to see what you create!

Posted by: Renee (reneeks)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
how do you like THEM apples?

Will suddenly realised that he held the very leverage required to persuade him in his arms.

Oh my. My little heart squeed big-big over THAT one. Listen, I really might die waiting for Wednesdays and Sundays. Seriously. Do you want to be responsible for that?! :( How about Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday???? I know, No. You girls are loving torturing us, eh??

I think this is the most realistic, believable state in which Jack could be after returning from the Locker. I am IMMENSELY enjoying this story.


Edited at 2008-06-09 03:39 am (UTC)

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
ship

Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I'm really pleased you're still enjoying the story.

As for keeping you waiting on the chapters, we do like the torture ;P *insert evil laugh*

Posted by: megcantsleep (megcantsleep)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 05:43 am (UTC)

I love this story so much that I barely know what to say about it! It's just so satisfying, and I can't wait to see where it goes.

I also LOVE the icons you guys have made to go with each chapter!

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 9th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
tyrant

Thank you! I'm really pleased you finding the story enjoyable. It was a long time in the writing so it's gratifying to know that people are enjoying it.

Also thank you for your comment on the icons! We wanted to do something special for each chapter so keep an eye out for more characters appearing :D

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 10th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Redux

Thank you so much, hun, for such a wonderful comment. Glad you've picked up on the clues we've been dropping because they'll start to come into play shortly in the story ;) From here on, we're charting our own course and the story takes a tangent from the movie.

I'm so pleased that you're finding it all exciting because it means we're getting something right and I hope you enjoy the upcoming developments.

Thanks again for taking the time to leave us feedback :D

Posted by: DC (drillingcat)
Posted at: June 10th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
capn jack oh bugger

love it! keep up the good work, loves!

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 10th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
pawn

Ta, love. Glad you're enjoying :D

New chapter to come tomorrow if we can tear our eyes away from those hawt new pics long enough to post it! *goes to drool some more*

Posted by: DC (drillingcat)
Posted at: June 10th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)

Posted by: .rachel. (whensheflies)
Posted at: June 10th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
PIRATES jack/liz Not Sorry

This is just epic. It's everything AWE wasn't and should've been. It's huge, sweeping, glorious stories like these that give me reassurance that fandom hasn't gone to the shits.

Thank you both for taking the time to share your gift.

I'm hooked till the end.

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 10th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
song

Thank you so much! We're still very attached to this fandom and if we're doing something to keep it afloat then that makes us very happy indeed!

Thanks for sticking with us and hope you enjoy the rest of the story :)

Posted by: djarum99 (djarum99)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
jackdj99

So far, so fantastic *g*

This is absolute heaven to read, balm for the soul and music to the ear. I love the images of Shipwreck Cove, and all of the character voices are spot on. Barbossa is hellishly delicious, Beckett is lustful and bitter, and Jones is monstrous - wonderful stuff. You've done such an amazing job of drawing us into Jack's journey back from madness and into the next arc of his journey. Brava, and a thousand roses ♥

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
Redux

Thanks, love. So pleased to know you're not bored of us yet lol! Your support is much appreciated, as always (solidarity, sister ;))

Posted by: akari (akarii)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
Pirates

I love the way you keep weaving background, athmosphere and mood of this chapter. I could picture myself right there and was experiencing the characters' emotions, because your description called to mind similiar situations.

This is like a purgatory, exactly the sort of story I like reading ♥.

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
assassin

It's such a compliment to know that you're enjoying the story so much and that the atmosphere we're trying to create is effective for you. Thank you so much for such a lovely comment :D

(chapter seven up now, btw :))

Posted by: Florencia (florencia7)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
Jack thoughtful

This is getting better and better! This chapter was amazing!!

I loved this: She had seen him break, scatter to the wind and, in the wild men of the Locker, she had witnessed his self loathing rage, his hatred, and despair. She saw them still, those strange spectres; she saw them in the splintered darkness of his gaze. - You describe everything so beautifully!

I also LOVED this part: The proclamation of Weatherby Swann's execution was, without doubt, one of Cutler Beckett's less artfully laid traps, yet Jack knew it would send Elizabeth running to Port Royal. The only question left to ask himself was this: why was it that he fully intended to follow? - It just says so much. Wonderful writing!

Posted by: Laura (fried_flamingo)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Redux

Yey! I'm so pleased that you're still enjoying the story!

We really wanted to use the Locker Jack's to tell more of the story in terms of character, rather than just being comic asides, so it's really good to know those descriptions are working for you.

And I think Jack doesn't want to admit why he's going to follow Elizabeth, but in his heart he knows why (as do we, eh? ;))

(chapter seven up now btw!)

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