The deck of the Endeavour – of any ship – was not a place where Cutler Beckett felt at home. The sky was too big, the sea too deep, and the wind too wild; he preferred the steady comforts of four walls and a good desk between himself and the unpredictable world. However, in circumstances such as this, he found himself obliged to stand upon the deck and watch the rocky slash of darkness that marked passage to the pirates’ strange stronghold.
“The place seems impassable,” Norrington mused from where he stood at his side.
Beckett cast him a sideways look. “No doubt that’s why they chose it.” Impassable to all but those invited, so said Davy Jones. Generally speaking, Cutler Beckett did not wait for invitations, but even so he thought it prudent to send Jones in first – to assess the strength of the fleet holed up in the fortress, and to gauge the stomach of the enemy for the fight. Upon his return, Jones would signal his findings and Beckett found himself impatient for the news.
“Pirates can barely spend an hour at a tavern without murdering each other,” the Admiral observed mildly, “it will be a miracle if there are any left alive for us to fight.” Beckett cut the man a brief look, but Norrington’s inscrutable gaze was fixed on the island and his thoughts were not easy to guess.
There was something secretive about James Norrington now, Beckett realised, something fundamentally untrustworthy. The beaten man who had accepted the return of his Admiral’s commission with a degree of humility had changed, seemed rather more like the swaggering adventurer who had snatched Jones’ heart from beneath Jack Sparrow’s nose and thrown it down on Beckett’s desk. He might still wear the King’s uniform, but Cutler Beckett doubted Norrington’s loyalty went further than brass buttons and gold brocade.
When they returned to Port Royal, Beckett resolved to ensure that the Admiral was swiftly dispatched to the furthest, and least respectable, corner of the Empire. For good.
A stir from up in the rigging led his attention back to the rocky islet before them. Through the jagged passage came a surge of water, a huge bow wave that seemed to proceed an invisible ship. A zephyr of unease rippled through the crew, he could hear their mutterings all around him as five hundred yards off their port bow the seas boiled and the macabre prow of Jones’ ship broke the surface, water streaming from its hull.
“Ah,” Beckett murmured, hands clamped behind his back. “What news, Captain Jones?”
He kept his face rigid, but in his breast his heart began to hammer.
Sparrow’s studied indifference is crueller than any blade; he makes no attempt to soften the blow, seems to take delight in Beckett’s dismay.
Nothing personal, mate. ‘Twas only a bit of fun.
Can he not see, Beckett wonders, how it burns? How I’ll never be free of the humiliating mark he has branded into my very soul with his dangerous beauty, with his secret smile and impudent gaze?
Sparrow hisses as the iron marks his flesh, but there’s a flash of deeper pain too, a flash of anguish and reproach in those exquisite eyes. Beckett bares his teeth and feels his heart knot, thicker and more ugly than the scar he leaves behind.
“There, sir!” The shout came from a lieutenant on the quarterdeck. “The Dutchman’s raising a colour.”
Beckett smiled. “We fight,” he said, eyes fixed on the fluttering flag. “Signal the fleet; there will be no parley. The pirates will not surrender and they will not live under our law, so they must be punished for their impudence. They must be exterminated, every man jack of them.”
He smiled again at that accidental irony and turned to Norrington. “Have Jones brought aboard, I would hear all that he has to tell about the meeting of the Brethren Court.”
And about the fate of Jack Sparrow.
For the first three weeks of his life in Port Royal, Will Turner knew luxury. The sheets in which he slept were softer than angel’s wings, the pillows like cushions of clouds. His appetite, when it eventually returned, was satisfied by the some of the finest foods Jamaica could offer and, though he remained abed for most of his recovery, this confinement was made more than tolerable by the frequent visits from his guardian angel. The memory of the kind, freckled face of Elizabeth Swann was one that abided, even as he'd watched her grow into a beautiful woman.
But for an orphan boy from England, with no connections or prospects, the idyllic life in the Governors mansion could not continue indefinitely, and so, as soon as the doctor pronounced him recovered, Will Turner was sent to work. A position was found within Mr Brown’s forge, the last apprentice having recently succumbed to a congestion of the lungs. On the day Will left the mansion to begin his new employment, he was accompanied by the Governor himself, who put a guinea in his pocket and gave the promise of the same each year until his eighteenth birthday. Will had sat in the carriage and looked up at the window of Elizabeth’s bedchamber to find her staring back. She was too far away for him to see her freckles and he had wondered if he would ever be close enough to see them again. Will had swallowed that strange sense of regret that seemed too big and too painful for his twelve year old mind to bear, or even understand.
Soon they were standing in front of the blacksmith’s shop, waiting for Mr Brown to answer the Governor’s knock. Mr Swann looked down at Will and smiled.
“Are you uneasy, boy?”
“No, sir,” answered Will in truth.
“Then why do you tremble so?”
Until that moment Will had been unaware of how his body shivered, and yet, when he thought about it, could he not feel something? Could he not taste it in the air? Yes. Yes, of course he could. It was here, inside this small, unremarkable building. Something important. Something powerful. Will could feel it as sure as he could feel the flagstones beneath his feet and suddenly he knew that just across this threshold, great wonders lay in wait for him. His fingertips itched.
Then stumbling footfalls approached and the ruddy face of Innes Brown appeared at the door. “Wharrisit?” he slurred, and even from several feet away, the stench of rum almost knocked Will off his feet.
The Governor frowned. “Mr Brown,” he said, extending his hand somewhat reluctantly, “I am Governor Weatherby Swann. I believe my steward met with you a few days ago and arranged the position for young William Turner here within your establishment.”
Brown’s eyes scanned the Governor's clothes, his wig, his hat and then he made an admirable attempt to draw himself upright, wiping his hand ineffectually on the leather apron he wore. “Governor Swann,” he said, accepting the proffered handshake with exuberance, “beggin’ yer apologies, sir. I wasn’t expecting you till this afternoon.”
“Ah, well, you must forgive my early arrival, Mr Brown,” said the Governor, politely neglecting to point out that it was almost two o’clock. “May we come in?”
“Oh, of course, of course!” The blacksmith ushered them inside to a shop that reeked of stale sweat and grog. But, somewhere beneath it all, there was another aroma, tangy and vivid.
I am part of the universe. I am born of the earth and the sea and the wind. I travel amid the stars…
Will staggered backwards, almost falling to the floor, before the Governor’s hands caught his shoulders. He looked at him in concern. “Are you well, son? Is perhaps the fever still upon you?”
Yes! Yes, I am still sick. Take me back to the mansion, let me return to Elizabeth. The temptation to make the plea was strong, but Will shook his head at the Governor’s question, for there was a stronger pull here, some force that drew him in and enveloped him. “No, sir,” said Will. “I belong here now.”
The Governor placed his hand on top of Will’s head and smiled. “You’re a good boy, Will Turner. This forge will always find custom from the mansion.” With a nod, he stood. “And who knows, if you apply yourself and work hard, one day you might even be as good a swordsmith as Mr Brown here.” The man beamed with ill-founded pride.
You don’t deserve this, thought Will as he watched the old inebriate walk the Governor to the door and bid him goodbye with a smile. You’re not worthy.
Then the door slammed shut and all smiles ceased.
Eight years passed and Will toiled in the forge, his skills growing every day, but in the eyes of his custodian, he could see resentment fester and spread, for it seemed that Will had a charmed ability to mould all metals to his whim. With hammer and anvil, he could make iron sing, could render the raw beauty of silver and gold into objects of wonder. He created swords, keen and perfectly balanced, whose hilts were so intricate and ornate that it seemed impossible for them to have been made by a human hand. Will took a quiet pride in his work, having quickly learned that for every compliment bestowed by a customer, a beating lay in wait from the meaty fists of Innes Brown. Besides, praise mattered not to Will and the only words he cared about were those uttered in the strange tongue of the metal.
On the day he’d set sail with Jack Sparrow, Will had felt himself tear inside as he’d watched the land dwindle on the horizon and, once again, he was watching from the carriage as Elizabeth’s face grew smaller at her window. Beneath him, the water was vast and empty, and only in its absence, did he realise how strong the call of the metal was to him.
Now though, as he stood in the lamplit cavern, far beneath Shipwreck Cove, it was clear that what he’d heard back on Port Royal had been but a whisper. For he could barely think above the noise that roared all around him.
I am part of the universe. I am born of the earth and the sea and the wind. I travel amid the stars. You summon and I obey. I speak and you listen. Hear me, Blacksmith, hear me…
“Steady, lad, steady.” There were hands upon his shoulders once more, only this time they belonged to Captain Teague. “Listen to it, young William, but don’t let it overwhelm you, lest you succumb to its voice forever.”
“What is it?”
“I think you know, lad. I think you’ve spoken it longer than you might realise.” And, yes, it was true. For though the strange language rang louder in this place, Will knew that it had spoken to him all his life, even before the day he had first set foot in Brown’s smithy.
Will strode over to the wall and ran his palm over its surface. It seemed that he could sense each tiny particle from which the rock was formed and feel the volcanic power that had pushed the Cove’s giant walls up from the sea bed, aeons ago. He sniffed the air and then closed his eyes, listening. When he opened them again, he saw it. A narrow opening hidden in the darkness of the cave. From inside, something called to him. “In here,” he said and Teague smiled as he followed him through.
The second cavern was smaller, its ceiling lower, but the sound, oh the sound, how it echoed in his very soul. In the far wall, there was a tiny alcove, barely three feet across, and when Will placed his hand on its base, he felt the gust of a strong draught. “There’s air here. We’re so far down and yet there’s air blowing upwards.” He laughed and shook his head, awestruck and feeling the weight of a strange and hidden history upon him. “This was his forge. This was the hearth where he built his furnace.”
“Yes, William,” said Teague. “And here…” He pulled a sackcloth covering from an object which sat in the centre of the room. “Here is his anvil. The bell has been raised from its watery grave, my boy. Will it ring once more by your hand?”
Will raised his hands and held them, palm up, before his eyes. Upon them, his life was writ in callouses and burn scars. “Yes,” he whispered. For I am Blacksmith and I speak a language that is ancient.
Teague nodded in satisfaction, his eyes glittering in the torchlight. “So be it. But know this, William Turner. I’ll hear no talk of destiny within these walls, for there’s destiny enough written upon them.” He gestured with the torch he held and, for the first time since he entered the cavern, Will saw that it was covered in tiny lines of intricate writing. “Let not the witch-woman fool you, boy, for in this world, only one thing matters. What a man can do and what a man can’t. So let no one, goddess or otherwise, tell you different, savvy?”
“I’ve heard those words once before, Captain Teague.”
The old pirate winked. “Then the bloke what said them must’ve had a good teacher, eh?”
Will smiled, but as he lowered his hands, his fingers brushed against the hilt of the dagger tucked into his belt and he remembered that other promise he’d made. He knew now that when it came time to make that choice and accept the duty of sailing those empty seas forever, his heart might break from the pain of it.
Hector Barbossa pulled his hat low over his eyes and quickened his step through the crowded streets of Shipwreck City. Though the sun still shone through a thin veil of cloud, it was the light of the comet that glared in his eyes; he could feel it like a noose about his neck, like the trapdoor beneath his feet, ready to open and snap his spine - ready to send him back to that cold, lightless place from which the goddess had dragged him.
Time’s running out, he thought as he hurried through the streets. One more sunset and it will be too late, her power will wane forever and my bones will be dust.
He found her, at last, at the end of the most distant quay in the Cove, her feet dangling in the water and her face lifted to the hazy sun. Though she did not turn, he knew she sensed his approach. “Why don’t you do something?” he said, stopping some distance from where Tia Dalma sat. “We only have eight of the nine, the blade cannot be forged in time.”
“An’ what power do you tink I have over dis, Barbossa?” She turned, eyed him narrowly. “Had I de power to summon de coins, d ’you think I would have born dese chains so long? Do you tink I would have made you flesh again, if I could have plucked your coin from de air?”
He frowned, squinting to see her more clearly. In the distance, visible over her shoulder, the Black Pearl gleamed darkly. “I’ll not be returned to me cold fate so readily,” he said, drawing closer. “There must be something we can do.”
Tia Dalma smiled, lips peeling back from her stained teeth. “Davy Jones will not be easily parted from de coin dat bind me, hmmm?” Fluidly, she rose to her feet and regarded him with one hand on her cocked hip. “Would take a wily man to snatch it from beneath him nose.”
“Steal the coin?” Barbossa flung a dubious glance at the Throat, through which the Dutchman had so recently departed. “Do you forget, woman, that I’ve journeyed to the Locker? Death would be a kinder fate next to those foul and misty shores.”
Tia Dalma waved his words away with a flicker of her hand. “Den you’re a fool, Barbossa, but I see dat de day we first cross paths - when you come demandin’ tell of Aztec gold and throw my warnin’ to de wind.” She turned, her gaze drifting up to the craggy cliffs above; in the distance, Barbossa could hear the babble of one of the many waterfalls that kept the inner walls of the island moss-slick and unassailable. “De Midnight Sun blaze fierce tonight, an’ tomorrow it die. Gather de Lords in de chamber, gather Blacksmith and Musician. Tonight de blade must be forged.”
In exasperation, Barbossa snatched off his hat and wiped a sweaty palm over his forehead, into his hair. “But without the ninth coin, what is the purpose?”
He couldn’t see her face, but he could hear her smile. “It will come.”
“And you know this, do you?”
Slowly, she began to sway. Arms raised, her head fell back until her long, wild hair began to sway in time with her body. “I feel it. De end come, Barbossa, I can taste de freedom of de seas and it taste bitter, like vengeance. Like retribution.”
“Retribution against those what bound you, no doubt,” Barbossa said carefully. “But a gracious and generous reward for those what played their part in your release, I’m sure.”
Tia Dalma made no reply, just stood there and swayed; Barbossa thought he could see the comet’s light shine in her inky eyes. “Gather de Nine Lords, Barbossa. Tonight, it must be done, or never at all.”
Barbossa wedged his hat back on his head and glared at the woman’s back. “Jones will never come, the Nine will never gather. Naught but tyranny and death await us, woman, lest you intervene.”
“You’re wrong,” she smiled, sending the words up to the milk-white sky. “De coin will come, I have faith.”
He snorted and turned to leave, death clutching at the hem of his coat with insistent fingers. It would reclaim him, he knew, by dusk the following day. “Faith in Jones?” he snarled. “You’re a bigger fool than I!”
Tia Dalma’s voice was a silver-edged chuckle. “Faith in Destiny,” she corrected, lifting her arms to the heavens. “For even de gods are her children, hmm? Even de gods!”
Beneath the sleek black silk that skimmed her body, Kasumi had concealed nine different weapons. Hidden within her knot of dark hair, were five toxic needles soaked in henbane and sharp enough to pierce leather. Not only that, but in the unlikely scenario of being divested of this secret arsenal, Kasumi had the skill to snap a man’s neck with a flick of her wrist. She had been trained in the ways of the kunoichi since she was a child, a deadly warrior whose passage to womanhood had been marked when she had taken her first life. She had slit the throat of a man while he was still inside her, had dripped poison into the mouth of another as his wife and child slumbered by his side. She had walked barefoot through rivers of blood and all of it she had done without remorse, without compassion and without fear. She was kunoichi and Pirate Lord. No being would humble her, be they gods or mortals.
Yet as she stood in the underground chamber, Kasumi felt a tiny trickle of sweat make its way through her hair and down the nape of her neck and she knew that it was not solely due to the stifling heat of the cavern. For the Song was louder down here than she had ever heard it before and, though she struggled to remain calm, her body trembled and shook. In any other circumstances, she would’ve considered this an unacceptable display of weakness, but when she looked around at the seven other Pirate Lords gathered at the stone table, she realised that they too felt in their bones whatever strange energy soaked the rock of this place.
“Kasumi?” Elizabeth Swann’s unwavering voice echoed throughout the chamber; sweat shone on her face and her breathing was rapid. Kasumi had marked the change in her since the second meeting of the Court. No longer the timid, confused girl who had hidden in the shadows when she first appeared before them, this woman was determined and possessed an air of calm control. Perhaps it was the figurative crown she wore that had tempered the steel of Elizabeth Swann, and whet it until she shone like a new blade. Or perhaps it had always been there, a radiance that seemed almost irresistible, even to Kasumi. She had power this one, but it was not divine or mystical. It was a power of this world, a human strength and only now was she learning how to use it and use it well. The Unwilling King, it appeared, was not so unwilling anymore.
Kasumi stepped forward at the Elizabeth’s summons, just as the other assembled lords had done before her. After two hundred years of anticipation, the surrendering of the coins was not without ceremony and, evidently, Teague had been thorough in his teachings. Elizabeth reached out and placed her hand above Kasumi’s heart, and though it may simply have been the strange magic of the cavern, she felt a heat flood through her entire body. The kunoichi and the King held each other’s gaze, resolute and unblinking. Kasumi’s heartbeat quickened.
“Do you pledge your loyalty to the Brethren of the Coast?” asked Elizabeth.
Kasumi knew what answer must be given, but beneath this woman’s determined gaze and lightning touch, it was suddenly clear that no other words would have been possible. “I do.”
“Do you pledge to abide by the terms of the Last Covenant as it is writ?”
Elizabeth took a breath and swallowed, though her eyes never left Kasumi’s, and then said, finally, “Do you surrender your coin freely to the Final Gathering that the debt may be paid?”
“I do,” replied Kasumi. Nodding, Elizabeth removed her hand, holding it out and Kasumi placed her piece of eight upon her palm. As the coin she had carried for ten years left her possession, she fell back, feeling the loss. What power was being created this day?
“What now, Barbossa?” asked Elizabeth.
“We wait, I suppose,” said Barbossa in reply to her question, uncertainty lacing his tone. “The goddess said nothing more, other than to gather in the cavern.”
“She is not a goddess yet, Barbossa,” said Gráinne Ní Mháille. “And I have yet to be convinced she ever was.” The Irish woman’s body, though, gave lie to her proclamations of doubt, for her hands shook and she gripped the edge of the table to steady herself.
“You hear the Song as loud the rest of us, Granuaile,” said Barbossa. “Now is not the time to deny what is all around us. The coins must be joined and the dagger forged and it must be done before the Midnight Sun fades from the heavens.”
“And what of these coins?” asked Gráinne sharply. “I see eight before us.” She gestured to where the pieces of eight lay on the table before each Pirate Lord, Elizabeth having laid Kasumi’s with the others. “We need nine, if your prophesy is to be believed. Nine coins or the knife is worthless.”
“She said it would come.”
“And how? How will it come, Barbossa?” Grianne’s voice rose with each word. “Will a sea turtle carry it to us upon its shell? Because I am doubtful that Captain Jones will show a sudden change of heart at the eleventh hour.”
“Granuaile.” Elizabeth spoke the pirate’s name softly and without fury, but, immediately Gráinne took a steadying breath and stepped away from the table, saying nothing more; she too had felt the power of the Pirate King’s touch. Then Elizabeth addressed the seven other lords. “The sacrifice must take place tomorrow and we need the ninth coin.” She turned to Barbossa. “I am inclined to agree with Captain Ní Mháille. We must take action, for I don’t see the coin just walking into…”
A noise in the tunnel stopped her tongue and all eyes turned to the entrance. Footsteps, growing louder, and a flicker of torchlight. A shadow fell into the room. Then, through the doorway, stepped Captain Teague and Will Turner. Both scanned the faces of those gathered in the cavern.
“The coin has not come then?” asked Teague, and though she could not be certain in the dim light, Kasumi thought that she saw something akin to relief pass across the old man’s face. A suspicion began to grow in her mind, though she could not name it as yet.
“Jones still has it,” replied Elizabeth. “We must take matters into our own hands, Captain Teague. We need to go to the Flying Dutchman and fight for it, if we have to.”
Will opened his mouth to speak, but Teague forestalled him. “No one’s going to the Dutchman.” He gestured to the adjoining chamber. “William, light your forge.”
“But Captain Teague-”
“I said no one’s going to that damned ship, Will.” The blacksmith set his jaw, but remained silent. With a frown, he slipped through the narrow opening.
“And who are you to decide, Captain?” Elizabeth’s tone was low but firm, and her eyes held a challenge. Teague met her gaze but said nothing. In the tense silence, the Song seemed to grow louder. No, not seemed. It was growing louder, so loud, in fact, that Kasumi thought her mind might splinter at the sound. Around her, the Pirate Lords were clutching their heads, their faces contorted in agony as the Song reverberated in their ears, in their heads, throughout every inch of their bodies. By her side, she heard Turgat roar in pain.
Something comes, something comes…
There was something approaching the cavern. Upon the table, the eight coins thrummed in anticipation.
The blood will be spilt, the debt will be paid, one of your own, one of your own…
It was real. All of it was real. Suddenly, Kasumi understood what folly it was for any of them to have doubted the words written upon the rock that surrounded them. The debt must be paid and she could not bear to think what hell might lay in wait for them should that payment be refused.
The cavern walls pulsated as if the very stone itself was breathing and water cascaded down its surface, shining black like blood. From the next room, a fiery glow emanated and, though she did not believe in Hell, Kasumi thought that they had stumbled upon its gateway. Then, when she thought that she might go mad with the pain of the Song, everything stopped. All noise, all movement, stilled. Into the chamber strode Jack Sparrow.
Clad in sodden shirt and breeches, water dripped from his hair and clung to his skin. His jaw was set and he glared at the assembled party, before turning to Teague.
“I seem to remember, mate, that there was something you needed from me before I was permitted to join your little pirate gathering.” He drummed his fingers against his chin and looked at the ceiling, as if in thought. “Now let me see, what could that that’ve been? Ah yes…” He flourished his hand in the air and between his fingers there appeared, as if from nowhere, a glint of silver. He rolled it back and forth over his knuckles, before throwing the object onto the table. The sound of the coin hitting the stone echoed like the peal of a bell. “What say you, Keeper? Is my coin accepted here?”
The old man reached out to pick up the piece of eight and Kasumi could see the weight of the ages in his eyes. “You brought it.”
Jack nodded. “I brought it. Did you all expect it just to fall into your collective laps? What a man can do, mate. That’s how it goes, isn’t it?” But Teague didn’t reply, just stared at the coin in his palm. “So what about it?” Jack continued. “Does that bit of shine there make me Pirate Lord enough for you?”
“You killed Jones?” asked Turgat.
“No, mate,” replied Jack. “I fear the fate of Captain Jack Sparrow does not include tentacles and ink. There are those what have got a more worthy destiny lined up for me. Ain’t that right?” He addressed this last to Teague and Kasumi saw the Keeper tense.
“Then we have the coins,” said Elizabeth. “The dagger must be forged.”
“One thing before Captain Sparrow makes his pledge,” said Kasumi. The suspicion had taken shape now and she had to know if she was correct. “It seems we still have an unresolved matter on our hands.”
Elizabeth nodded. “She’s right, Captain Teague. If I am to ensure the debt is paid then I must know which of us is the payment.” Her gaze fell on each of the assembled Lords, then returned to Teague, who stared back, his face inscrutable. “Tell me.”
Around the table, the eyes of all but one of the Pirate Lords were lifted to their King. The room remained silent, but Kasumi knew she had been right. The truth, at last, was revealed and she knew who would make the payment for them all. “Tell me,” Elizabeth demanded of Teague.. “Tell me which of us it is.”
Teague remained silent, but Kasumi saw Barbossa’s eyes slide to the end of the table. So he’d known all along then. Elizabeth took a breath to make her entreaty once more, but was interrupted before she could speak.
“Elizabeth.” Jack’s eyes remained fixed on the table top.
The girl frowned, then she shook her head, as comprehension dawned. “No,” she said firmly, as though believing her command would make it not so. At last Jack looked up. “No,” she repeated, backing away from the table.
“Yes.” He paused and swallowed. “I’m the payment, love. I’m the sacrifice.”
“No,” she cried. “You can’t be. I brought you back!”
“For this, Elizabeth. You brought me back for this. It was always going to end here. I’m sorry.”
When Elizabeth spoke again her voice was a whisper. “There must be another way.” But Jack’s only reply was a shake of his head. “I won’t let this happen,” she said, more firmly.
“You don’t have a choice, love. Now-” He straightened and stepped towards her, gathering his coin from the table. “- I believe there’s some fancy words you need to be uttering, eh?”
“No,” whispered Elizabeth. “No, I won’t.”
“Not again, Jack! I won’t!” She backed away from him, but not fast enough to escape his grasp. His hand shot out, grabbing her wrist and he pulled her towards him.
“You will,” he said quietly, and spread her fingers across his chest, holding his hand atop her own; Jack’s lips parted and Kasumi heard him gasp at Elizabeth’s touch. “Say the words, Elizabeth.”
“Do you…?” Elizabeth faltered and took a breath that shook throughout her body. “Do you pledge your loyalty to the Brethren of the Coast?”
“I do.” Jack’s words were a whisper.
“Do you pledge to abide by the terms of the Last Covenant as it is writ?” Kasumi saw Elizabeth’s thumb move, tracing a gentle path across Jack’s skin.
“Do you surrender your coin freely to the Final Gathering that the debt may be paid?”
“I do,” replied Jack, and placed the coin in Elizabeth’s upturned palm, curling his fingers into hers as he did so. No one moved and silence hung, hot and heavy, in the cavern. “There’s one other question you need to ask me, isn’t there?” he said.
Water shone in Elizabeth’s eyes and she shook her head. “Jack…”
“Lizzie.” Kasumi felt something unfamiliar tighten in her throat at Jack’s utterance of that single word and she fought the urge to turn away.
“Do you offer-?” Elizabeth’s voice hitched in a sob and she dropped her head. With the sleeve of her coat she wiped angrily at her cheek and her shoulders rose and fell in a deep, steadying breath. When she raised her face to Jack’s, her eyes were steel once more and Kasumi wondered how long this fragile armour would last. “Do you offer your blood in restitution to the goddess and accept the burden of ten score years?” she hissed through gritted teeth.
For a moment, Jack said nothing, though his sad eyes did not leave Elizabeth’s face; both were oblivious to anyone else present. Insanely, Kasumi found herself hoping, fervently, that he would refuse, that Captain Jack Sparrow would laugh at them and tie them in knots with some finely spun words. Surely a two hundred year old debt meant nothing to him, prophecy be damned.
Find a way, Suzume. Find a way!
But even as she made the wish, she knew it to be folly, and was unsurprised when the answer fell from his lips.
“I do.” Then he pulled back, withdrawing his hand from Elizabeth’s, and turned to Teague. “When?”
The old man paused and then lifted his chin. “Dawn, tomorrow.”
“I’ll be ready.”
In an instant he was gone, disappearing back up the tunnel. Elizabeth sagged against the wall, as if something vital had been sucked from her in his wake, sliding down to crouch upon the floor. Teague looked at her and opened his mouth as if to speak, but instead he gathered the eight coins from the table. The ninth, he plucked from her slack fingers and then made his way into the next room. Soon after, chimes began to ring, of metal struck upon metal.