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SalR323 [userpic]
At World's End: Redux 13/27
by SalR323 (salr323)
at July 2nd, 2008 (09:23 pm)
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Chapter 13


“Captain Teague!”

Elizabeth darted after the grizzled old pirate as he made his way along the winding hallway. After the strange heat of the Brethren Court, the breeze outside was cool upon her skin and she shivered. “Captain Teague!”

But the man paid no heed to her call and carried on walking further into the heart of the towering city. Behind her, the remaining Pirate Lords made their way toward the docks and their respective ships. Barbossa though, remained by her side as she watched them go. “They’re leaving?” she asked, her pursuit of Teague temporarily forgotten. “How can they leave after what just happened in there?”

“Not leaving, lass. Just unwilling to spend the night in the Cove. It be a mite difficult to get a decent night’s sleep when an assassin’s dagger may lurk under every bed. In fact, I’d recommend us both heading for the Pearl forthwith.” He turned to Elizabeth with a glint in his jaundiced eyes. “Especially given your recent accession to the throne, Your Majesty,” he said, sweeping off his hat and bowing low.

Remembering her desire to speak to Captain Teague, to demand an explanation for this lunacy, Elizabeth turned back to where she had last seen the mysterious Keeper of the Code. But he was gone, swallowed by the labyrinthine passageways that led from the courtyard in which they now stood.

It had been barely past dawn when they’d brought the Black Pearl into dock, taken their leave of the others and headed for the Brethren Court. Now the sky was a black canvas, scattered with a dusting of starlight. In the east, the ice-fire of the strange new star blazed. How could so much happen in just a few hours? She pressed her fingers to her temples, trying in vain to sooth the sudden ache that had crept in behind her eyes. The Unwilling King Teague had called her, and she’d heard the capital letter in the first word, as if that was part of her full title. The Unwilling King.

She shivered again, but this time it had nothing to do with the chill of the air…

“This court of the Brethren of the Coast is called to order.” Teague had clearly taken some strange delight in banishing Jack from the court and it seemed that he could not be Jack’s father, for how could such acrimony exist between father and son? “Take your seat, Miss Swann.” The Keeper had gestured to an empty seat at the table, next to Barbossa. In that bewildering situation, she’d been strangely glad of his presence, something familiar amid the chaos. Barbossa had pulled her chair out and, not knowing what else to do, she’d sat down, hands clutching the edge of the battered wooden table in an effort to stop them from shaking.

“Do you think it wise continuing this council without Captain Sparrow?” asked the older Irish woman. She’d turned to fix Elizabeth with an intimidating stare. “Are we to accept this usurper in his place? This… girl?”

Elizabeth’s brain had fought a war with her mouth to speak up and defend herself, but as it had turned out, defence had come from a more surprising source.

“A girl who had the wiles to send him to the depths, Granuaile. If she holds his coin, then she has earned the right to sit at this table. Or do you forget how it was that your own coin came into your possession?” It was the black clad Eastern woman who had spoken, the one who had smiled at Jack before. Granuaile had raised her eyebrow and nodded, conceding the point. Elizabeth had then found herself under scrutiny from bright, almond eyes. “Youkoso, Elizabeth Swann. I am Kasumi, kunoichi and Pirate Lord of East China Sea.” Elizabeth smiled hesitantly, glad of the words of welcome, though instinct told her that it would be folly to ever count this woman as a friend. Kasumi tilted her head, a thoughtful expression on her face. “So tell me, Miss Swann. How exactly did you trick the cunning Jack Sparrow into the belly of the Kraken?”

“Enough.” Teague’s growl had silenced all talk and Elizabeth was spared having to answer the question. “Enough gossip and chatter. We’ve matters to attend.”

“And what of the ninth coin, Keeper?” asked the huge, dark skinned man whom Elizabeth had heard called Turgat. “We are still missing one of our number.”

Teague’s expression had darkened. “All what’s coming, have come,” he’d said. “The ninth coin will be ours soon enough. So says the prophecy. There ain’t time to hang around waiting in vain for the Dutchman’s captain to show his face. Let’s continue as we are.” And so had begun hours of bickering and hostility as age old disputes and piratical politics were unleashed. Elizabeth, feeling tired and overwhelmed, had let her attention drift, until, suddenly, the utterance of two words had pulled her mind back into focus. Pirate King.

“Which of us would claim such a title, Keeper?” asked Turgat. “And which of us would allow such a claim? There is not a pirate alive whom I would trust besides myself. I believe my fellow Brethren would echo my sentiments.” The other Lords acknowledged their agreement.

“And yet a King must be chosen, Turgat, for who else’ll accept your coin? Who else would you present it to?”

“The behest of my grandfather was clear. I present it to none other than the Pirate King.”

“So we find ourselves at an impasse.” Granuaile had leaned forward into the torchlight. “For none of us will present our coins to anyone but the King, and yet there is none among us whom we would trust to accept such a task. We would be fools to grant such power to one who desires it, would we not?”

“Fools indeed,” said Kasumi softly. “But what is to prevent us from bestowing the title upon one who does not desire it?” She had smiled cunningly, and glanced around the table. A knot of dread had formed in the pit of Elizabeth’s stomach as she saw similar smiles appear on the faces of the remaining Brethren.

Teague, also, had seemed to understand, for he stood and said in a magisterial tone, “The Twentieth Court of the Brethren of the Coast will vote for the Pirate King. The result must be unanimous.”

So had begun the calling of the names, and when it was over a King had been named.

Free now from the confines of that darkened room, Elizabeth found the entire idea preposterous. “Unanimous,” she whispered, before turning to Barbossa. “Why me?”

“Unwilling, I think, would apply to yourself. Your first words in the Court were to disclaim ownership of that coin, were they not?” Elizabeth nodded, though Barbossa narrowed his eyes, as if pondering. “And yet,” he continued, “whose name was it that fell from your own lips?”

Elizabeth frowned and looked away. “Who else could I be expected to trust?”

He grinned. “No shame in it, Miss Swann, no shame at all. ‘Twas a unanimous vote was required afterall, eh? Now I believe you were wanting a word with Captain Teague, were you not?”

He led her through the wooden streets of Shipwreck City, past barnacle encrusted taverns and dwellings, upwards until it seemed they could climb no further. The crowd thinned and then it was just the two of them climbing a rickety spiral staircase. Finally, Barbossa pointed up ahead to a dimly lit archway. “Through there you’ll find the Keeper of the Code.”

“In there?” Elizabeth’s tone was skeptical. Surely someone as powerful as Captain Morgan Teague would not live so far from the town, in such a tumbledown abode. But then, from within the ramshackle little house, drifted gentle, strummed notes and she remembered the guitar she’d seen behind Teague’s chair in the Court.

“I’ll be heading to the Pearl now. See that you find your way back safe.” With those words, Barbossa headed down the staircase, his black coat soon merging with the darkness as she watched him go. Beyond the archway, a door lay open and, for a while, Elizabeth stood there, spellbound by the language of the instrument being played within, lulled by a harmony that she couldn’t just hear, but could feel, in her heart, in her soul. For a moment, it seemed that she might forget even her name.

I am part of the universe. I am born of the earth and the sea and the wind. I travel amid the stars.

“Enter, girl.” Elizabeth jumped at Teague’s command and, inside the room, the tune stopped. Steeling herself, she stepped through the door and found herself in a small chamber, in darkness save for the welcoming glow of a fire in the grate. Books lined the walls, crammed haphazardly onto bowed shelves, and maps and charts were strewn across almost every surface. Pipesmoke curled and danced in the air and, through it, Teague watched her with eyes that had lived a lifetime before she had even drawn her first breath in this world. We have seen it all, they said. We have forgotten more than you have learned in your handful of years. Do not challenge us, child. “You have questions,” stated Teague, infuriatingly matter-of-fact in the face of this insanity.

“Yes, of course I have questions!”

“Let’s have ‘em then.” He placed the small guitar by the side of his chair and leaned back in expectation. But there was so much to ask that Elizabeth had no idea where to start and questions proved elusive. There was only one that encapsulated them all.

“What the bloody hell is happening?”

Teague chuckled and, for a moment, the expression on his timeworn face seemed almost benevolent. In that instant, Elizabeth could see the depth of his weariness; knocked and jaded by the world, this was a man whose battles had been so frequent and so prolonged that they had merged into one long and arduous war. Elizabeth felt a sudden surge of sympathy for the old pirate. “Please, tell me what’s happening,” she said, softly.

“And what makes you think I know, girl?”

“I may be a girl, Captain Teague, but don’t take me for a fool.” Sympathetic though she may be, she would speak her mind and not allow him to temper her resolve. “You rule this Cove, do you not? I find it hard to believe that anything takes place here without your knowledge.”

“I’m just a Keeper, love, not a ruler. ‘Tis the Code what rules the Cove and the seas.” His eyes dropped, gaze distant for a moment. “For now, at least.” He looked up at her again. “And, anyway, it’s you what they’re calling King now, ain’t it?”

“Unwilling King, I think, is my full title,” replied Elizabeth sardonically, stepping into the firelight. “Tell me what you’re planning, Keeper.”

For a long moment he regarded her carefully, as if weighing her up, making a judgement. “’Tain’t my plan, Elizabeth,” he said, using her name for the first time. “Ancient as I might seem to a nipper like yerself, this one goes further back than even my lifetime.”

“Captain Teague—” she began in frustration, but he held up a gnarled hand, forestalling her words.

“Easy, lass. Sit. ‘Tis about time this story was told in full, and to someone who’s willing to listen.” Elizabeth sat down in the worn leather armchair opposite, curious despite the chill of foreboding that raised the flesh on her arms. “Before I begin, Elizabeth, you need to understand this. There is a power in the universe beyond the ken of normal men and it speaks a language few can understand. Do you know of it, girl? Have you felt it?”

Elizabeth nodded, thinking of the first time she’d heard the Song and of how Teague’s music had spoken to her in a way that seemed to almost carry her out of herself.

I am born of the earth and the sea and the wind…

“Then you know enough to understand the bones of the tale. For the purposes of this telling, it begins two centuries ago, in a place where rock meets surf, though truth be told the real beginning was much farther back than that. Nevertheless, two hundred years ago a covenant was struck by a group of men eager to harness a savage and primal power. But those men what thought themselves so important turned out to be no more than humble pawns, playing a game they didn’t understand and whose outcome they could not possibly foretell. Conceit was part of it, aye, though not all; they did what they thought was best at the time.

“The truth is that there were two characters alone what understood the game proper, and a third after that what played the most important part of all. But we’ll start with the two. Both of them knew, better than any, the import of the events they witnessed, for both spoke a language that was ancient. One of them was a musician, a man who could find notes held captive in string and set them free to work magic upon the world. The other could talk to the elements of the Earth, to the ore; he spoke to it and it spoke back. He was a man with the power to mould the Earth’s metals, to take something raw and temper it, to commune with the ancient magics and shape them to his will. That man, love, was a blacksmith…”

***


The great ship pitched and rolled upon furious waves, as if the ocean herself was trying to throw them from her back. Rain beat down in sheets and, up ahead, loomed the colossal mountain, a fearsome behemoth towering above the waves, ready to swallow whole the vessel that sailed towards it.

Calypso be merciful! Cezar de Barros offered a silent prayer to the goddess to whom all seafarers pledged their loyalty. He couldn’t help but wonder, as he toiled upon the rain-washed deck, whether he had damned himself the moment he had set foot aboard this galleon, for though she flew no colours, only a fool would fail to recognise the vessel for what she was. A pirate ship. Am I pirate now? he wondered. Will Heaven shun my cursed soul?

The weight of the purse around his neck felt heavier suddenly and Cezar forced himself to think of Maria, waiting for him back on Sao Vicente. She would be heavy with child now, her belly grown in the three months since he had last been home. The sovereigns in the pouch would bring a comfort to his wife and unborn child that the wage of a merchant seaman could not. He had done the right thing accepting a place on this ship, pirate or no, and any loving God would surely forgive whatever transgressions may be committed in achieving such an end.

“Why are you above deck?” A rough hand grabbed Cezar by the collar of his coat and he whirled around in alarm to face the Captain’s stern gaze.

“Earning my coin, cap’n,” he answered, confused by the demand and by the anger in the Captain’s tone. “As any sailor would.”

“You’re not here to be tending to bowlines, man. If you were to be washed overboard, what then would we do, eh?”

“Then forgive me for asking, sir, but why am I here? Why have we come to such a desolate, godforsaken place?”

“To bear witness, Cezar. Nothing more,” replied the Captain, his tone more kindly now. “Get thyself below. We shall have need of you soon enough.” But even as he spoke, Cezar felt a great shadow fall upon the ship, even blacker than the darkness of the moonless night, and he turned to find the galleon dwarfed by the gargantuan wall of rock. It towered over them - Lucifer, rising from the icy lakes of the lowest circle, fallen angel and wretched emperor of hell. In the centre of the monolith, a tunnel gaped, black and yawning, and the ship sailed inexorably towards it. Lucifer opened his mouth, ready to feast.

“Have you damned me, Cap’n?” he asked, but his words were lost in the roar of the mountainous waves as they entered the void of the tunnel.

Então nós deslizamos pela Garganta do Diabo,” he hissed, before terror sent him fleeing below.

***


Eight had gathered. Lamp-lit and sombre, they stood silently in the damp cavern. Waiting. For what, Cezar could not rightly say. Nevertheless, an air of expectation hung over the small chamber, thick as the stench of sulphur that clogged his nose and throat.

Passage through the mouth of the mountain had proven tempestuous, but had ultimately passed without incident; inside its vast rock walls, the water was calm, sheltered from Calypso’s might. It seemed that nature itself had built them an impregnable fortress. Dead centre of the otherwise empty cove lay a small island, and it was here that the galleon had dropped anchor, alongside seven other vessels of varying size and shape, from a slender galley with elegant sweeps to an enormous, hulking a man o’ war.

“Come, Cezar,” the Captain had said. “‘Tis time to go ashore.”

“Just us?” Cezar had asked, uneasily, and the captain had walked over to lay a hand on his shoulder.

“Be not afraid, friend,” he’d said, placing his other hand across his left breast. “No harm shall befall you this day. You are honoured, Cezar, for the time has come for man to claim, finally, his legacy, and you shall be the one to…”

“…bear witness,” finished Cezar, though doubt laced his tone. All the same, he’d nodded and accompanied the captain to the tiny spit of land, where they’d made their way down a winding stone corridor. After a few minutes walk, he’d found himself emerging in a torch-lit cavern where the seven other men had already gathered, all dressed in fine garb, clearly captains themselves and pirates, each one. In the centre of the chamber stood a large stone table, which at first glance looked to have risen naturally from the cave floor. However, when Cezar looked closer he could see that its base was not attached to the ground and its surface was too smooth and even to have been hewn by wind and water.

“Welcome, my brother,” said one of the men, addressing the captain, who’d bowed in greeting. “‘Tis a blessed day that sees this gathering.”

"'Tis a day that will see our ships protected from Calypso's wrath," replied the captain.

The other man nodded, then his eyes flicked to Cezar. “You have brought the witness, I see.”

The captain nodded. “As agreed.” He glanced around the chamber. “Has he come?”

“Do you see him here?” asked another hook-nosed man, irritably. Cezar’s captain merely smiled, ignoring the barb in the man’s reply.

“He will come,” said the first man. “After all, is he not the one who made the summons?”

“He must come,” insisted Hook-nose, with some vehemence. “He is the only one who possesses the knowledge of what we must do. The covenant cannot be made without him.”

"Patience, my friend. The covenant shall be made and, by the time we sail from this place, our ships will be protected from the might of the goddess. Let her whip her oceans into a frenzy around us, the power we invoke here today shall ensure our vessels will come to no harm. Jones' knows this better than any; he will come."

Then, as if in response to the man's words, the sound of uneven footsteps echoed along the corridor, growing louder, until a man appeared in the opening to the cavern. Huge and imposing, his broad frame filled the doorway. One leg was gone, a wooden stump taking its place, and Cezar wondered what manner of beast could possibly have got the better of this brute of a man. The torchlight doused the red hair of his beard with an orange and yellow glow; for a moment, it seemed to Cezar that he was breathing fire.

“My brothers,” he said, the lilt of a Scots accent giving lie to his commanding appearance. “I am overjoyed that you have answered my summons.”

“Do you think we had a choice, Captain Jones?” It was Hook-nose who had spoken. “Have our ships not suffered enough upon the seas? Perhaps the Dutchman does not endure such hardship, considering she is indentured to Calypso herself. As is her captain, eh?”

Cezar listened with growing disbelief. This was the captain of the Flying Dutchman? The commander of the ship of the dead? He shrank back against the damp wall of the cavern as Captain Jones crossed the short space between Hook-nose and himself, and grabbed the front of the smaller captain’s shirt. The man’s eyes widened in alarm.

“Davy Jones is indentured to neither man nor woman, be they mortal or otherwise,” he growled, before releasing the man and turning to the room at large. “And soon no pirate shall bow before that heathen goddess.” He spread his arms wide until it seemed that he filled the whole cavern. “Today, my brothers, we take back that which is rightfully ours.”

Then, above the sound of Davy Jones’ booming voice, Cezar once more heard footsteps, slow and deliberate. Into the room, stepped two men. One of them was broad, taller even than Jones himself. His shoulders strained against a coat that was too small, his bald head gleamed in the torchlight, and in his hand he held a large sack. Despite his size, though, the man lacked the menacing air that rolled off Jones in waves, and his features were gentle and benevolent.

Behind him stood a second man, concealed from head to toe in a black robe, a hood obscuring his face. The only part of him not hidden was his hand and the fingers curled around the neck of a stringed instrument that Cezar recognised as a vihuela. At the sight of the two men, Jones' lips curled upwards in a smile that sent a shiver through to Cezar’s very bones.

He turned back to the assembled group. “Gentlemen, have you brought your offerings?” In turn, each man produced a pouch from about his person and upended them, spilling their contents onto the table. The sound of metal hitting stone rang throughout the chamber as various items of gold and bronze and silver were scattered upon the stone. Jones’ grin grew wider and he nodded at the larger of the newcomers. The man strode forward and gathered each piece of metal from the table.

“It will take time,” he said to Jones.

“Time, we have. Can you do it here?”

The man walked to the wall and, reaching out, he ran his huge hand over the rock, before sniffing his palm. He lifted his head and closed his eyes, and to Cezar it seemed that he was listening for something. Then he walked to the back of the cavern and there, concealed by the darkness, Cezar saw an opening, a narrow crack barely wider than the man himself. “In here,” he said, and slid through the narrow gap. His cloaked companion made to follow him, but just before he too stepped through the opening, he turned back to the group of men.

“Do not follow us,” he said, in a voice rich and mellifluous, and then disappeared into the darkness of the chamber beyond.

And so they waited. Time seemed to thicken and slow in the stifling air and the only sign of life was a vivid orange glow that shone steadily through the gap in the rock, brighter than the light any torch or lantern could possibly create. Soon the heat emanating from the opening became unbearable and Cezar began to wonder if they had stumbled upon the doorway to Hades itself. After a while, there was a sound, the crystal chimes of metal upon metal, over and over, accompanied by the gentle music of the vihuela.

The sounds eventually ceased and soon after the two figures emerged from the narrow doorway. The larger of the two held in front of him a strip of worn leather, which he placed on top of the great stone table. Upon this strip lay nine coins. Varying in shape and size, some bronze, some gold, some silver, they resembled no currency Cezar had ever seen before. The air in the cavern seemed to thrum with an unseen force.

“My brothers,” said Jones. “Come forth and accept your coin.” One by one they obeyed, each taking a coin from the cloth as Cezar looked on in bewilderment, wondering at the nature of these events. He dared not give voice to his confusion, but he was soon to have all his unspoken questions answered “Now,” said Jones, taking the final coin, “the time has come.”

The nine men stepped up to the table, coins clutched in their hand, and suddenly Cezar found himself the subject of Jones’ gimlet stare. “Do you pledge to bear witness to the covenant?” Cezar stood frozen and Jones’ repeated the question, his tone now tinged with impatience. Cezar nodded, uncertainly. Jones continued. “With these coins, my brothers, we welcome the dawning of a new age. The Age of Man and the end of our subjugation to the heathen goddess. Gentlemen, let us recite.”

And so began the recitation of words that Cezar did not understand, words that invoked the powers of the sea and the earth and claimed them in the name of man, words of heresy and hubris that screamed in Cezar’s ears, fighting against the howl of the ferocious wind that had sprung up and now crashed around the cavern. The chant of the pirates seemed to scorch the air, turning to fire as they left their mouths; each man had a look of rapture upon his face, but Cezar knew that this ecstasy was far from divine. He sank to his knees, clamped his hands over his head, but he would not, could not close his eyes. As the chant died away he felt a dreadful chill, as if all colour had drained from the world and the beating heart of the universe had stilled. He looked at the stone table and, when he saw what lay upon it, he knew that they were all damned.

The woman opened her eyes.

“Calypso.” The name was a breath upon Davy Jones lips, but in that one word Cezar heard such pain and bitterness that it broke his heart. The woman reached out to touch Jones’ face, a face that was suddenly twisted and ugly.

“Oh, what have you done, my love?” Her voice was full of sadness and regret. “What have you done?”

“That which should have been done long ago.” Jones stepped back, pulling away from Calypso’s touch. “Too long has man been forced to bow down before your wickedness and cruelty!” His face contorted with rage. “No more! No more shall we succumb to your wiles! Temptress, betrayer, foul whore of the sea!” His hand shot out and grabbed the goddess’s neck in a claw-like grip. “No more!”

“Jones!” The cry came from Cezar’s captain, who ran forward and tried to free Calypso from the huge man’s grasp. “What is this, man? What are you doing?”

“The stories were true, weren’t they? ” Hook-nose stepped forward, towards the altar. “I’d thought them a tall tale, but they were true. The goddess took you for a lover.” He turned in horror to the woman lying upon the table. "And now..."

Jones whirled around to face him. “Took me for her own as long as it suited her purposes,” he spat. “But what does a goddess care for the love of one man? What use is a human heart to an immortal? No use at all!” And with those words he ripped open his shirt to reveal, carved into his chest, a huge gaping scar from which blood still seeped. The men in the room gasped in dismay.

Calypso threw herself upon the stone of the altar and wept. “Oh, my love, my love. What have you become? Why, my love? Why, when you know what I am? You must have known!”

“I know what you are now,” said Jones contemptuously. “Powerless, weak, bound in your bones. No longer cruel queen of the ocean.” He curled his fingers into her hair and they were pale and waxen against its obsidian shine. With a violent tug, he pulled her up to face him. “The seas be ours, my love. The Age of Man has come to pass.”

“You are man no longer, Davy Jones,” said Calypso, and in her eyes shone the sadness of the ages.

“Jones, what have you done?” whispered Cezar’s captain.

Jones spun to face him. “What have I done? Is that not a coin you hold in your hand, my brother?”

“You are no brother of mine, Jones. I do not know what you are anymore.”

“I am one of you!” cried the Dutchman’s captain to the room at large. “You would do well not to forget that. You asked me how we might reclaim our power on the seas, and have I not delivered you that? Have I not given you sovereignty over every tide and current? Have I not given you freedom? Or are you all such fools that you would deny the power I offer you?”

"We wanted to protect ourselves and our crews," whispered Cezar's captain, in anger. "We wanted freedom to roam. Not this, Jones." He turned his gaze toward Calypso, his expression pained. "How much have we lost this day?"

Davy Jones nodded slowly and slid his narrow eyes around those gathered. “So be it. Refuse my gift. But know this, gentlemen. I shall not deny myself this power and, if you challenge me, I shall rain fire upon you all and lay waste to your empires. You will look for me, my brothers, in years to come. That I do swear. And you will find me. When despair is all that you know and hope is naught but a dying ember, you will find me. One day, the Flying Dutchman will claim all your souls for her own!”

And then he was gone, footsteps echoing up the corridor to the surface. A silence hung in the cavern in his wake, as comprehension finally dawned upon the eight remaining captains; something fierce and beautiful had been destroyed this day, and the world was an emptier place for its loss. The woman upon the table lay still and quiet, a fragile shell of what she once had been.

“What have we done?” whispered one of the other men. “Jones’ fury is worse than that of the goddess!”

“He fooled us!” growled Hook-nose. "He told us nothing of this wickedness!"

“We let ourselves be fooled,” said Cezar’s captain, quietly. “Not once did any of us ask the price to be paid. Conceit blinded us and now…” His voice broke and he buried his face in his hands.

Cezar could bear no more. “Calypso,” he said gently, and the goddess lifted her head to face him. “What must we do to atone for this?”

She blinked slowly, but said nothing. And then:

“What would you do?” All heads turned toward the voice from the darkness. Out of the shadows stepped the musician. “What would any of you do, to break this dark and treacherous covenant you have wrought?”

"Is there a way?" Cezar's captain stepped forward, speaking now for them all. "Tell us."

"What does a minstrel know of such things?" asked Hook-nose scornfully.

"Hush, fool!" cried Calypso. "He is musician. He speaks a language more ancient even than me. Speak, child." She addressed this last to the musician, who lifted the cowl from his head, revealing a face that was stark and beautiful.

"A way, yes," he said. "If you will bind your lives to it, and the lives of your children, and your children's children for ten-score years." His gaze seemed to touch them all, each in turn. "But I warn you, my friends, there is a cost must be paid in the end, and those coins you hold will not be enough to placate Calypso's wrath."

The goddess’s eyes flashed with a dark and bitter rage, but she kept a breathless silence.

Cezar’s captain straightened his shoulders. “What must we do?”

“Come.” The musician beckoned them to follow him through the gap in the wall. Cezar hung back, but the musician turned to him and said, “You too, my friend. Especially you.” So Cezar followed the others into the adjacent cavern. The musician’s large companion was already inside, bathed in a fiery glow that emanated from a makeshift forge, hewn from the very rock of the cave. When he saw the small anvil that sat in the centre of the room, Cezar realised what the man had carried in his sack. A blacksmith, he thought. Of course.

“Was there enough?” The musician addressed his friend, who nodded and withdrew his tongs from the forge. Within its grip, a tiny uneven disc glowed white. The blacksmith set to work with his hammer and, as the glow faded, Cezar was sure he saw words flicker across the surface of the newly moulded coin. From the corner of the room, clever notes sprang once more from the strings of the musician’s guitar, and the room seem to sing with a power not of this world; clear, pristine music that bent the air and curled themselves around those present. Cezar felt that he was drifting and yet, at the same time, the very rock beneath his feet became more real, more solid.

I am born of the earth and the sea and the wind…

Then the tune was over. “My friends,” said the musician, bringing Cezar’s mind back into focus, “your covenant today was marked by the coins you hold in your hands. But this coin…” He gestured to the shiny metal disc, now cool enough for the blacksmith to hold in his hand. “This coin is formed from the remnants of those others and contains something more powerful than all of them combined.”

“The Song…” breathed Calypso, face tipped back and swaying softly as if she could still hear the music.

The musician smiled. “The Song. With this, can you atone for your hubris. With this coin shall you be summoned to undo what you have wrought here, and all that shall follow. Two hundred years shall pass, two hundred years of man’s dominion. You shall be Lords of the Sea, while the goddess remains bound in her bones. But the cost shall be high, for man was not born for such power and he shall grow brazen and his freedom shall become Tyranny. Then shall the seas run red with the blood of man, and the dead shall be forsaken. Only then, when the cost of your hubris is laid bare, shall you pay the price for what you have done here. Only then, can the goddess be freed and the balance restored.”

“But how?” asked one of the pirates, desperately. “What must we do? What can be offered in restitution for what we have done today?”

“Blood,” said the musician simply. “The blood of one of your own. One who will be chosen.”

“And if we refuse?” It was Hook-nose who spoke, pinched and suspicious. “If the debt is not paid?”

“Then man’s tyranny shall reign unchecked, and all freedom shall be lost. Forever.”

For a moment, no one spoke but then Cezar’s captain stepped forward. “So be it,” he said. “One of our own.” He turned to face the others. “Let us pledge this oath in atonement for our sin today. As surely as wave meets shore, we shall repay this debt and the goddess shall be freed. Our coins shall pass from hand to hand down the years and so too will our legacy. Lords of the Sea and the Coast shall we be. A Brotherhood - a Brethren - sworn to pay the debt we have accrued. And when we are called upon to spill the blood of our own, we shall accept such a sacrifice with thanks and humility.”

“But how will we know? How will we know who is chosen? How can we ensure that a coin passes to him?” asked one of the newly anointed Lords.

Cezar’s captain paused, his eyes downcast, and then he whispered, “Aqua de Vitae.”

“Pah! A foolish fairy tale. The Fountain of Youth is a myth.” Hook-nose looked on in disdain as the captain shook his head.

“I have seen it, my brother,” he replied. “I know where it is and I have seen men who drink from it change before my eyes. I too shall sup from its well and when the ten score years draw to a close, I shall pass my coin on to whomever is chosen. This I do swear.”

The other seven men nodded in solemn acknowledgement, but Calypso lifted her chin, black eyes flashing. When she spoke, her voice was the crash of the waves upon deadly rocks. "You think that vows of restitution are enough to repay your treachery? Fools! Do you think I can be assuaged by the mere spilling of mortal blood?" She cast her eyes around the chamber. "Pass on your coins and make your choice, but know this - the chosen one shall feel my wrath and bear the punishment for you all. For every tortuous year I am bound, so shall he endure a year of unbearable agony. In all things, I demand fair payment."

The men bowed their heads in fear and contrition, but said nothing. Then, to Cezar’s astonishment, the musician picked the coin from the blacksmith’s palm and came to stand in front of him. “Do you have children?”

Cezar nodded. “My wife is with child, due to be born in a month.”

“Still in the womb but with a great legacy to bear. You will learn the words I teach you, Cezar,” he said, and Cezar did not question how he knew his name. “And when he is old enough, you will teach them to your first born and he shall teach them to his. So shall it continue until the Age of Man is almost over. For what is a song without someone to sing it?” He placed his hand on Cezar’s shoulder. “Do you understand, my friend? Do you accept the duty?”

And Cezar knew that he could do nothing but accept. The musician placed the coin in his palm and it felt like ice and fire.

“How?” he asked, hoarsely. The musician narrowed his eyes in query. “How do you know this? All of this.”

But the man merely smiled. “It is written.”

***


Coals shifted and slumped in the grate, sending a flurry of sparks up the small chimney.

“Written?” Elizabeth echoed. “Written where?”

Teague leaned back in his chair, regarding her through diamond-hard eyes. “All around, love,” he said with a wave of his hand. “They found the words inscribed into the very bones o’the Earth, upon the walls of that unhallowed catacomb. None knew how they got there, nor who wrote them – older than time they were, older than the goddess herself.”

In the firelight his features were lost in shadow; she might almost have believed that he was older than time himself. “What did they say?”

“Depends on who reads them.” His smile was a baring of golden teeth. “The terms of the bargain they were, cast in stone, and with them signs and portents heralding the end times – when the sons shall pay in blood for the crimes of their fathers.”

“And is that time now?” she asked quietly. “Is that what’s happening now?”

Teague shrugged and reached for a long-stemmed pipe that rested by his chair. He lit it with a taper from the fire and sucked slowly, making the tobacco glow. “Depends on who you talk to.”

Elizabeth resisted the urge to roll her eyes, focusing instead on the story Teague had woven. Story, or history…? She studied his craggy features and thought that two hundred years might render a face so furrowed. “Was it you?” she asked. “The man who drank from the fountain of youth in order to pass on his coin. Was it you?”

“Not I.” Teague blew out a long, smoky breath. “Met him once or twice, though.”

She leaned forward, into the smoke. “Captain Teague, are you telling me the truth? This story is hardly credible.”

“Unlike stories of cursed treasure and cursed pirates? Come, girl, did you not travel to the ends of the world and walk the shores of Davy Jones’ Locker?”

She conceded the point in silence. “You had better finish the story then, Captain. What happened to those men? To Calypso?”

He puffed on his pipe and leaned his head back against his chair, blowing a stream of smoke into the air. “They became the first Keepers. Shaken, they were, by what they’d done, and what they’d seen. They made their way from the heart of the earth on trembling legs, just as dawn was breaking. ‘Twas a terrible sight what greeted them, though – for Calypso had fought a mighty battle ’gainst the binding and all their ships lay smashed, as if dropped by a giant’s hand, upon the island where they met. Only one small barque was left untouched – that of musician and of blacksmith.

“Away they sailed, and Calypso with them, leaving the pirate Lords alone upon that wrecked isle. They say the creatures of the seas did spread the word – or perhaps it were Calypso herself, or Jones – but the very next day, the ships began to come. Every man what had freedom in his blood and called himself pirate was drawn to that place, and so it grew in legend and stature – and so it grew in power. The home of the Brethren of the Coast…”

Elizabeth’s eyes were wide. “Shipwreck Cove,” she whispered. “That place was here? Beneath this city?”

“Aye,” Teague nodded. “And a place of lingering magic and terrible power it still is, eh?”

“So it seems.” She sat back in her chair, eying him carefully. "And what of my role in this, Keeper? What of the King?"

He blew out a shivering smoke ring and she watched as it dissipated slowly between them. "Contrite as they were, love, they were still pirates, treacherous and fickle as a rip tide. And it seems that those what came before - what scratched those words of portent upon the wall - knew the character of pirates better than any. In the months that followed, as this city grew around them, the Brethren pored over those scratchings. And there they found you."

"Found me?"

"Or at least the notion of you.” He sucked on his pipe again. “The tokens shall be brought to the Final Gathering, there to be presented to She who holds unwilling dominion over the Nine, and none but she shall accept the coins."

Elizabeth's eyes widened. "She? They knew it would be a woman? Even then they knew?"

"Aye," said Teague, an amused sparkle in his eyes. "Though none would acknowledge it and, instead, took refuge in the title of King. For what woman could command a band of ruthless pirates, eh?"

“What woman indeed?”

He leaned forward, suddenly eager. “What think you now of your Kingdom, Miss Swann, that it stands upon such a terrible bargain as was struck that day?”

She wanted to tell him that it was not her kingdom, that she was no pirate King. But the iron of the manacles still burned her fingers, and her hands – her very soul – yearned to spill the blood of Frederick Mercer. She looked at Teague and knew denial would be a lie. “I think the debt will very soon be paid, and that Calypso may not permit this city to remain once she has her freedom.”

Teague smiled, a glitter of approval in his eyes. “Then a terrible choice lays before you, does it not? For either we must languish beneath the tyranny of man, or risk the wrath of the bound goddess; a heavy weight upon the slender shoulders of a maid such as yourself.”

She bridled at the term ‘maid’ – did he think her a child, an innocent thrown to the wolves? If so, he was sorely mistaken, for a woman’s strength had nothing to do with men’s idea of purity. “It is my experience, Captain, that such debts are always collected in the end. And that endeavouring to evade the settling of such a debt would only make matters worse.” She smiled with false assurance as she rose to her feet, striving for a confidence she did not feel. “The debt will be paid and the goddess will be freed, as agreed by the First Brethren Court.”

Teague stilled, sharp as a blade, and Elizabeth smiled. Underestimate me at your peril, Captain Teague. “All we must do now,” she said, “is identify the Pirate Lord chosen by fate to spill his blood in payment of this debt.”

“Aye.” Teague’s face was suddenly a mask and she could see nothing but sharp edges in his eyes. “That’s what we must do.”

***



Many thanks to bellbubble for the Portuguese translation! Thanks, hon. :)

Continued in Chapter Fourteen

Comments

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Posted by: awickedwench (awickedwench)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
Elizabeth_King

Great backstory! I'm amazed and in awe of this undertaking. Incredible storytelling!

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Redux - Musician

Thanks, hon! We had lots of fun creating the mythology for this. Really pleased you enjoyed reading about it. :) On with the action in the next chapter!

Posted by: Claudia Mary Gacrux (cmgacrux)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)

Very interesting.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
Redux - comm

Thank you! :)

Posted by: Bell B. (bellbubble)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)

a woman’s strength had nothing to do with men’s idea of purity
So true, and prettily written!! Loved the chapter so very much!! And why do I get the feeling that Elizabeth's the chosen one to suffer Calypso's wrath? Though Davy Jones would be the most logical choice... Guh! Just tell me Jack's out of trouble, this time at least, pretty please...
Beautiful, most beautiful job done, ladies!! Can't wait for more!! Oh, and if you need anything else, just ask! ;)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
Redux - Song

Thank so much! Really pleased you liked this chapter, with all its exposition! lol

We had fun with this backstory, so I'm pleased you liked it.

I'm saying nothing about who might be chosen...;) Next chapter up on Sunday!

Posted by: kenton_bomb (kenton_bomb)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)

Oh, how I love Wednesdays. And for good reason.

I absolutely love how you've taken the basics of what we were given in AWE, the coins, the brethren, the song, and come up with this brilliant new backstory to it. I honestly have no idea how the two of you come up with stuff like this. Nevermind Ted and Terry it should be you two writing these movies. [And I'm not just saying that for all the Sparrabethy goodness I know you'd give us]

Needless to say, brilliant chapter as always and looking forward to Sundays.

Well Done xx

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Redux - Song

Oh, what a lovely thing to say! We really had fun taking all the hints they'd dropped in DMC and weaving them into something new. I'm so pleased you've enjoyed reading it!

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and I hope you enjoy the next chapter!

Edited at 2008-07-03 10:13 pm (UTC)

Posted by: djarum99 (djarum99)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
jackrun

Loved the background on the myth, and Elizabeth's conversation with Teague - this leaves me wondering how much he can see of the future :-) The tension is drawn to perfection, as is Elizabeth's determination and uncertainty. Brilliant as always - I'm running out of virtual flowers to throw at your feet, loves ♥

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
Redux - King

Aww, thanks, hon! :)

You just never know, with Teague, how much he can see. What a wonderful character he is!

Really appreciate you're continued support. (And I must email you soon about 'The Source', because OMG!)

Posted by: tuesday_suit (tuesday_suit)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
Keira

He turned to Elizabeth with a glint in his jaundiced eyes. “Especially given your recent accession to the throne, Your Majesty,” he said, sweeping off his hat and bowing low.

This is a fabulous image. :-)

He was a man with the power to mould the Earth’s metals, to take something raw and temper it, to commune with the ancient magics and shape them to his will. That man, love, was a blacksmith…”

Oooooh. *shivers* Where did I put that jumper you gave me last time?

“You are man no longer, Davy Jones,” said Calypso, and in her eyes shone the sadness of the ages.

That whole scene was haunting and sad and lovely all at once. Fabulous job with that part of the story.

When he saw the small anvil that sat in the centre of the room, Cezar realised what the man had carried in his sack. A blacksmith, he thought. Of course.

Of course indeed. I like Cezar - I feel like he is almost an amalgamation of all of us, watching a new part of the story for the first time.

“What did they say?”

“Depends on who reads them.”


So it's different for everyone - I love this idea.

“Captain Teague, are you telling me the truth? This story is hardly credible.”

“Unlike stories of cursed treasure and cursed pirates? Come, girl, did you not travel to the ends of the world and walk the shores of Davy Jones’ Locker?”


Excellent point, Teague. This new tale is no more fanciful that what she's already experienced and seen with her own eyes.

She wanted to tell him that it was not her kingdom, that she was no pirate King.

Ah, but you will be, Lizzie. You definitely will be.

Another enthralling chapter!!! Excellent work as always; I'm looking forward to Sunday!

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
Redux - Tyrant

Oh, thanks so much! I love reading your comments. :) We'll see how it all shakes out in the next few chapters, so hold tight!

And now I have a reason to look forward to Sundays too! ;)

Posted by: mary684 (mary684)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)

Love the backstory, especially that Jones tricked them into binding her -- nice spin on that. The explanation of why the King is a woman - oh, good job!

Very curious how all this is going to tie together...waiting on Sunday...on Wednesday...on Sunday...etc.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
Redux - Navigator

Thank you! We had a blast concocting the back story, so I'm really pleased you enjoyed it.

It'll all start coming together in couple of chapters, so stick with us! *g*

Posted by: akari (akarii)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 11:36 am (UTC)
Pirates

Beautiful backstory. Now I only wish it were not the middle of summer, hot and dry, with traffic buzzing past my windows. This backstory should be read on a murky autumn evening, it'd be a lot more authentic than it already is.

Will you at some point reveal who these First keepers are?

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
Redux - Admiral

Thank you! :)

You're right, it is a story for a dark night, eh? It was probably still winter when we came up with it!

So pleased you're enjoying it, and thanks, as always, for commenting. :)

Posted by: KSena (kseenaa)
Posted at: July 4th, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
Captain Turner by elanordh

Aha. I see. :-) I must say, this is a lovely thing. I am constantly trying to find hints to what will happen with whom. I think I am right, then I am proven wrong. Again I have a guess. But I will keep it silent. For now. :-)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 08:53 am (UTC)
Redux - comm

Thanks so much! Sorry not to have replied to your comment sooner, I've had a hectic weekend!

I'm really glad we're keeping you guessing about what's to come, it's fun for us to see what people are thinking! I'll be curious to know if your guesses are proven right in the end. :)

As always, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. :)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 08:57 am (UTC)
Redux - Kasumi

Hi hon!

Sorry I didn't reply sooner to your comment, it's been a mad weekend!

So pleased you enjoyed this chapter, because we had so much fun constructing this mythology and were eager to know what people thought of it!

methinks Teague has already sorted who it must be...

Maybe. ;) More on that in the coming chapters, of course. *bites tongue*

So pleased you like the musician and blacksmith ideas, again we'll see more of that soon.

We're getting to the crux of the story now and I can't wait to see what you think! :)

As always, we really appreciate your comments - you know we're huge fans of your writing, so love that you're enjoying this.

Posted by: Renee (reneeks)
Posted at: July 4th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)

Ooohhh, I think I know stuff!!! But I could be wrong...This gets more interesting every chapter. Am DYING for Sunday to get here already.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 09:02 am (UTC)
Redux - Kasumi

Thanks so much, hon!

I'm really pleased you enjoyed all the backstory - it was so much fun to create! I wonder if you're right about what you think you know! Hee! Do tell us in the end when, won't you?

Sorry it took me a couple of days to reply, it's been a hectic weekend. Chapter fourteen's already been posted - so I hope you enjoy it when you get time to read!

As always, huge thanks for the read and the comment. :)

Posted by: ditte3 (ditte3)
Posted at: July 4th, 2008 07:23 am (UTC)

good chapter as always.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 09:02 am (UTC)
Redux - Musician

Thanks so much! Really pleased you're still reading along... :)

Posted by: DC (drillingcat)
Posted at: July 4th, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
sparrow

interesting theory about the brethren. loving it!

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 09:04 am (UTC)
Redux - comm

Thanks, hon! We had fun pulling it all together. :)

As always - love the icon. I love Jack's little flag! lol Even his skull and cross bones are kind of hot. Must be the amazing bone structure. ;)

Posted by: lady_linnet (lady_linnet)
Posted at: July 5th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
sparrabeth because:

Ooh, I loved this chapter. Somehow, you managed to make backstory interesting - that hardly ever happens in Pirates fics these days. Great work as usual! :D

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)
Redux - King

Thank you! Really pleased you found our backstory interesting, that's a fab compliment.

More J/E to come in Sunday's chapter, if you've not read it yet... ;)

As always, huge thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

Posted by: Anne (ladyofthesilent)
Posted at: July 5th, 2008 09:21 am (UTC)

To keep it short (at least for once ;) ) - WOW!

What a thrilling backstory! I love the mixture between fantasy-plot and pirate-lore. A very convincing explanation for Jones' role in the binding of the goddess, and a nice backstory for the origin of Shipwreck City.

Teague is an amazing storyteller. I can't wait to see how Will, the blacksmith will fit into all this.

*is looking forward to Sunday*

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 7th, 2008 09:10 am (UTC)
Redux - Musician

Thanks hon!

I'm thrilled you enjoyed this, because we worked really hard on trying to make it all fit together.

The essence of Will's role will be revealed fairly soon, although it's going to take a while for his story to reach its conclusion.

I know you've read Sunday's chapter already, so sorry it took me so long to reply to this comment. Hectic weekend! :) More on the way on Wednesday. :)

And, as always, we really appreciate your fab comments. We always look forward to reading what you have to say!

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