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At World's End: Redux 19/27
by SalR323 (salr323)
at July 23rd, 2008 (09:40 pm)
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Chapter Nineteen


The blade was forged in fire and darkness, imbued with the Music of the ages as the Blacksmith’s hand plunged glowing metal, again and again, into the sea’s cooling water, tempering it and making it strong – strong enough to cut the bindings of a goddess. His hammer rung against the anvil, tolling the passing of an age, while upon the horizon another dawned, gleaming with the brilliance of the dagger that now lay upon the table in the chamber beyond the forge.

The Blacksmith placed it there in silence, his gaze meeting with fleeting concern the woman who sat all alone at the table and something passed between them that Teague could not catch. But Turner’s world had changed in those few hours, his heart shown a power and purpose he had never before understood, and he left with a nod to Teague; it was an acknowledgment of all that had been forged that night – not just the blade, but a bond so ancient that none could comprehend it save Musician and Blacksmith.

Teague felt a surge of regret as the boy left the chamber and fought not to hold him back. For, if Turner honoured his pledge to end Jones’ life, then much more than his soul would be lost to the world – and lost to Teague. On the table the blade gleamed bright in gold, silver, and bronze, etched with the wordless music that glittered along its length like the stars above; if this was the last object forged between them then, by the Powers, the world would be a lesser place.

His thoughts must have wandered too long, for he was taken off-guard by the girl’s sharp rebuke. “You knew,” Elizabeth Swann said. “You knew all along it was Jack.”

Teague lifted his gaze from the blade and looked at her before he answered. Her face was pale, even in the ruddy glow of torchlight, her eyes bright and imperious. Dressed in his son’s old coat and britches, she still managed to look like a Queen. Or, more properly, a King. “Aye,” he said. “Since the day he were born in the sticky heat of the swamp, I knew.”

Her eyes widened; he was pleased to have surprised her.

Teague lifted a hand and waved at the sky, far above them. “The Midnight Sun,” he said, by way of explanation. “The perfect harbinger of me very own midnight son, eh?”

“And yet you will not lift a finger to save him. To save your only son!”

“Never said he was me only son, love.”

Her eyes narrowed, unperturbed. “Nevertheless, he is your son. And tomorrow he will be sacrificed – doomed to two hundred years of suffering – to pay another’s debt. How can you allow it? How can you just stand there and let—?”

“Let?” Teague’s growl cut her off. “How can I let it happen? For forty years I’ve fought against this day, Miss Swann. The words on this wall are burned into me very heart, each one of ’em turned over like stones in the tide. Every possible meaning drawn out, picked apart. One of our own, it says? Aye, so I sent Jack away without even me name to call his own; did all I could to keep him from piracy, and from possessing the coin of which you so recently divested him. But the boy’s a bloody-minded fool, and him what gave Jackie the coin was older and more cunning than me by far…”

She drew in a sharp breath. “He was the one…” Her quick intelligence impressed Teague, though he made sure not to let it show. “The man who gave Jack the coin was the one who drank from the Fountain of Youth.”

“Aye, he could read the signs as well as I – better, probably.”

“And did Jack know?”

“Ever tried keeping secrets from him, love?”

Her gaze darted away, resting on the dagger that lay on the table between them. “It’s unlike Jack to embrace his fate so readily,” she said coolly. “I’m more used to him fighting it tooth and nail.”

“And so he has,” Teague agreed. “Yet fate has carved his path deep, and however far he roams it always seems to bring him back.”

There was a pause, a silent moment of understanding. “Not fate,” she breathed. “ I brought him back.”

“Fate wears many faces.” He watched her until she lifted her gaze to his. “You did what was right by you; no way you could’ve known the part you were to play in his destiny.”

Elizabeth Swann rose to her feet, chin lifted. In the torchlight, dancing shadows painted her angular face in sharp relief. “I know now,” she said. “I know my role now; I am Pirate King and I will not permit this.”

“You will not permit it?” He folded his arms and regarded her askance. “And how, pray tell, are y’thinking of preventing it?”

Her chin tilted up. “I forbid it. Jack Sparrow is an innocent man, I will not see his blood spilt in this barbarous fashion. It would make us no better than the Admiralty.”

“We are no better than the Admiralty, love. We’re black-hearted bloody pirates and, whether you forbid it or not, the debt will be paid.” He lowered his voice and took a step closer, resting his hands on the table and leaning toward her. “You know what awaits us if it is not, eh? Your father was just one victim of the tyranny that will enslave us all.”

She recoiled a little from that stinging blow and fell silent, though her eyes told a story her lips could not. Sorrow, desolation, remorse – he saw them all there, them and something deeper, something more powerful; something ripe for tapping by an old pirate who’d do anything to save his son. Anything at all…

“What if I told you there was a way to save him?” he said. “What then, Miss Swann?”

“What do you mean, ‘save him’?” She was rightly suspicious; he congratulated her for it, even as he manoeuvred his pieces around her upon the game board.

“Save him from having to plunge that blade into the flesh of the goddess – save him from two hundred years of suffering at her hands…”

“But you said it was impossible, that the debt must be paid.”

Teague nodded. “Aye, so it must. One of our own – a Lord of the Sea – must willingly, and with generosity of spirit, take this blade and plunge it into the mortal heart of Calypso. Thus, will her bonds be broken and thus will she exact her revenge upon the soul she takes with her into the deep.”

Elizabeth leaned closer, her face tight and angry. When she spoke, her voice was clipped. “Tell me how he can be saved.”

“For twenty years, Jack bore the coin passed on to him by Captain Figo of the First Brethren Court.” He lifted an eyebrow and held her gaze. “But ‘twas not Jack Sparrow what presented it to the Twentieth Brethren Court, now was it?”

And so his final gambit was played; all he could do now was hold his breath and see how the dice fell. It took no more than an instant for understanding to dawn, her face at once brightening and fading to grey. “I bore that coin.” It was a whisper of cold ash. “I took his place here.”

Teague nodded slowly. “And you can take his place elsewhere – atop the cliff, at dusk. You can save him, Elizabeth. You, who betrayed my son to his death, can save him from this terrible fate. If you choose it.”

“If I choose it…?” Her words echoed softly through the chamber, caressing with teasing fingers the words of prophesy cut into the heart of the rock. “He can be saved if I choose it?”

“Destiny is just the path beneath our feet, love. We can choose to walk it or not, so long as we’re willing to accept the consequences of our choice.”

She went very still, like a statue carved of marble. Her skin was bone-white and he could see the terror in her trembling fingers as she touched the dagger forged by the man she had once loved. But her heart, he prayed, belonged to another now. “You said, ‘upon the cliff at dusk’,” Elizabeth said, not lifting her gaze from the knife. “You told Jack dawn.”

Sharp as a blade, this girl. “So I did.”

She lifted her head, fixing him with a look that was so bright – so full of passion and life – that he felt a sudden clench of regret at his hand in her fate. “You knew I would do this.”

Would do this? Teague felt his heart race with a hope he’d not permitted himself since Jack had returned. “I knew that remorse weren’t enough to drag a man back from the Locker. Saw more’n that in your eyes.”

He thought she might look away again, might blush and fluster, but she held his gaze and matched it foursquare. “You’re a ruthless man, Morgan Teague. Would you exploit a woman’s heart to save your son?”

“Aye,” he said after a pause. “An’ much more’n that too.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Well, you shall not exploit mine.”

The fragile construction of hope he’d so rapidly built was consumed by a sudden, fierce inferno. “After what you did to—?”

“You shall not exploit it,” she repeated, her voice bright as a clarion over his rough anger. One slender hand reached out and snatched the blade from the table. It caught in the light and for a spinning moment he thought she meant to plunge it into his own chest. “You shall not exploit my heart, Captain Teague, because I choose this fate. I embrace it! I know you think me a child to manipulate, but I am not; I am a woman who has lost her father, who has lost her world. I have travelled beyond the edges of the map, Captain Teague, because I know what it is to betray my own heart. I know the bitterness of that pain and I sailed to the edge of the Earth to end it.” She held the blade aloft, turned it so it glinted in the light. “Do you think I could stand by and do the same again? Do you think I could let him die that we might live? Do you think I could ever live with that choice?”

Teague was silent, his heart thundering with self-recrimination and hope and fear. This girl-child suddenly seemed mythical, as if she blazed brighter than mortal men. Like Jack, he thought with a pulse of strange terror. She burns bright, like Jackie. And suddenly he saw his hands, like great dark shadows, tearing the two apart – dividing that which yearned to be together. How much greater pain would he cause his son by permitting the death of this woman? He could not tell, and refused to care. He would not see his son condemned, the boy he’d raised from infant to man. Here, at the end, salvation stood before him like an angel and he embraced it with his black heart and to Hell with the consequences. “I knew you’d do right by him,” Teague lied. “Could see you had a good heart, Elizabeth.”

The knife slipped into her belt. “At dusk then,” she said, failing to mask the slight tremor in her voice. “Say nothing to Jack.”

“At dusk,” Teague nodded, sketching a bow. “You will live long in history, Elizabeth Swann, the Unwilling King.”

She smiled, a fleeting sweetness upon her lips, and he imagined her beauty was soul-melting when she smiled in happiness. “Afterwards, tell Jack… Tell him that I— That I…”

“Aye, love,” Teague said gently. “I will. I swear it.”

He was surprised to realise that it was a promise he intended to keep.

***


On the back of Will’s hands, the skin was scorched with fresh burns, raw welts that shone scarlet. The muscles in the crook of his thumb and forefinger ached with every movement and blisters marked the place where he’d gripped the hammer and tongs. As he wound his way through the Cove and down to the harbour, Will flexed the joints repeatedly, savouring the familiar pain that had too long been absent.

The dagger he had forged not one hour before was infused with a magic he could not yet understand, something fierce and primal, and by all accounts would play a part in bringing about a new age for mankind. But as he ran his thumb over the calluses on the palm of his hand, both old and new, Will knew that the forging held more meaning for him than the culmination of a mysterious prophecy. A path had opened before him this day, one he never knew existed before.

Looking up, Will was surprised to find himself in front of the hut where he had brought Elizabeth for their one moment of union. Had it really been just the night before? So much had happened in the time between and so much had changed for them. It was foolish, though, to dwell on what might have been, especially when the future held so many uncertainties for both of them.

As he turned to leave however, a movement through the open door caught his eye, and when he pushed it open further, he found Elizabeth hugging her knees upon the pile of sacking that had served as their bed. “Elizabeth?”

She turned, startled, and for a moment Will thought that she might be crying. But in the rosy light of the approaching dusk, he saw that her cheeks remained dry. Nevertheless, it was impossible to miss the sadness that had etched itself in the shadows beneath her eyes. “Hello, Will,” she said, with an unconvincing smile.

And, suddenly, Will thought that they might be strangers, these two individuals in the tumbledown shack, that they weren’t the same people who, in that very place, had learned the mysteries of each other’s bodies and shared an experience new to both of them. Yesterday, I would have comforted her, he thought. I would have had no hesitation in wrapping my arms around her. Now though, he felt that he had stumbled upon the grief of someone unknown to him, like an interloper at a wake.

“I’m sorry,” he said, turning to go. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Don’t go!” called Elizabeth, as he reached the door way. Then again, more quietly. “Don’t go.”

Slowly, Will walked over, asinine questions flitting through his mind, as he sat down beside her. Are you well? What’s wrong? Can I help? He left them all unvoiced. Instead, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and waited for her to talk.

“Could we have stopped any of this, Will?”

He frowned, puzzled at the nature of her question. “Which part do you mean?”

“All of it.”

He shrugged. “I suppose you’d have to ask where things start, why they happen, what part we have to play in events. There’s too much we don’t have control over, Elizabeth, and too many tiny choices we make that seem unimportant at the time, but end up being turning points.”

“Like the medallion,” she whispered.

“What do you mean?”

“If I hadn’t worn the medallion that day, then the Black Pearl would never have come to Port Royal and all would be as it was.”

“Yes,” said Will, “and all would be as it was.” She faced him and smiled, understanding his meaning. “Change one thing and change them all, Elizabeth,” he continued. “ I don’t think we can pick and choose what’s in store for us. We decide upon a path, then we have to accept what lies in wait for us upon that path, both the good and the bad.” He smiled. “But what do I know of the schemes of the universe. I’m just a blacksmith.”

“Not just a blacksmith, Will.”

“No,” he said after a moments pause, realising that perhaps he knew more than he had ever understood. “Teague says I have a destiny here, you know, in the Cove. If I choose it.”

“Teague has a lot to say on destiny.” Will was surprised to detect a note of bitterness in her voice. He was even more surprised when she pulled away to crouch on her knees before him. “Do you remember when you asked me what I was, Will?” she asked, urgently. “Last night. Do you remember asking me that?”

“Of course I do.”

Elizabeth grasped his hand in hers, squeezing tight. “I couldn’t answer then, but… I think I know now, Will. I think I know what I am. I understand the path I have to walk.”

felt a sudden pain in his heart, as he tried to comprehend, not the words she was speaking, but all that she was leaving unsaid. It sounded too much like goodbye. “Elizabeth, I don’t…”

“Don’t ask me, Will. Please. If I told you now, I think you would--” She spun to face the window, alarm flashing in her eyes. “It’s nearly dusk!”

“Yes, but why…”

“Will, I love you. I love you dearly. Don’t ever ask yourself if there was anything you could’ve done. I want you to know that there wasn’t. And I want you to know he didn’t ask me to do it. The choice was mine. The choice has always been mine.” And then she pressed her lips to his, before rushing out the door. Will sat, stunned for a moment, and then darted from the shack. But she was already gone, a phantom amongst the bodies who swarmed the streets. Frowning, Will tried to understand her departing words, but they were a muddle in his head. He flexed his hands again, seeking comfort in the only thing that made sense to him right now, the memory of the forge and the birth of the dagger.

The dagger.

Will’s stomach dropped in horror as the meaning of Elizabeth’s words rang clear. And then he ran, seeking out the one person he knew would have the power to stop what it was she was planning to do.

***


Joshamee Gibbs sat with his back to the mast and his legs stretched before him, the rum warming against his leg as he cradled the bottle and silently watched his captain.

The day had seen Jack Sparrow in fey mood, drifting like a strange spirit about his ship, touching line and beam with clever fingers and whispering nonsense into the breeze that swept about the Cove.

Ill omened, Gibbs thought. The breeze rattled the rigging and to him it sounded like the knocking of old bones – fifty ships, perhaps, were moored here and each was rattling like a gibbet. It unnerved him.

Men spoke of war, of blood to be spilt and debts to be paid, and had Gibbs not seen the Dutchman with his own eyes he’d have told them all they were rum-addled sops. He had no patience for tall tales, for he’d seen enough in his days to know the truth behind most of them. But this evening… This evening, Jack Sparrow lay upon the deck of the Black Pearl, staring at the darkening sky with a face as sombre as any Gibbs had seen him wear. They’d been drinking together all afternoon, which was not uncommon, yet today it had been he, Gibbs, who had been doing most of the talking.

“Tell me a tale,” Jack had said as the sun slipped toward the horizon. “Tell me a tale, Mister Gibbs, of high adventure and daring do. For I’ve a mind to be distracted from me woes today, and I fear rum alone ain’t up to the task.”

Gibbs had smiled. “There ain’t no story of high adventure, Jack, of which you ain’t a part. Don’t suppose you’ll be wanting to hear of Aztec gold and cursed ships, eh?”

“Not that,” Jack had agreed. “Not that, for sure.” After a pause, in which he’d sighed heavily, Jack said, “Then tell me how you turned pirate, Mister Gibbs. I’m sure that’s a tale worth hearing.”

It wasn’t, but Gibbs told it anyway – and indulged in a number of embellishments and fancies which, he felt, added greatly to the telling. When he’d finished they had fallen silent again and had stayed so until now, when the sky began to purple in anticipation of night.

“There’s to be a skirmish tomorrow,” the captain said at last, his voice quiet and his gaze still skyward bound.

“So I heard,” Gibbs agreed, taking a swallow of rum. “Is it a skirmish in which we’ll be partaking?”

A flicker of something crossed Jack’s face. It might have been a smile, but a bleak one if it were. “I’m afraid that’s unavoidable, mate. The die is cast and all that.”

Gibbs wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Seems mighty strange, if you don’t mind me saying so, sir, to come all this way – to come to this strange place – simply to fight the British, and them with Jones on their side. Would have thought a more prudent strategy would be to run the other way.”

“Aye.” As he spoke Jack lifted the bottle that sat balanced on his stomach and examined the content against the fading light; he’d not drunk half as much as Gibbs, that was for sure. “But sometimes a man has nowhere to run,” he said softly. “Or, rather, there are some things what a man can’t outrun.”

“Such as the Kraken?”

Jack stilled. “Aye.”

There was a pause, a weighted one it seemed; Gibbs felt it settle upon his shoulders and knew it for his own guilt. Into the silence he spoke, words that had been brewing in his heart since the day Jack strode from the mist of those strange and haunted shores. “I’d have freed you,” he said, letting his gaze drift away from his captain and out to the black cliffs that penned them in. “Had I known what she was about, I’d have braved the beast to free you, Jack.”

At that, Jack turned his head, those strange dark eyes suddenly bright. “I know.”

“I’d not have abandoned you, nor the Pearl.”

“I fell behind,” Jack said, pushing himself upright that he might look Gibbs squarely in the face. “You did what was right by you and the crew, and you stuck to the Code. Captain can’t ask more’n that from his Lieutenant, eh?”

“Maybe he should,” Gibbs said, awkward suddenly. “Especially if his Lieutenant is fool enough to be fooled by a maid such as her.”

“You weren’t the only one, mate,” Jack said ruefully. “She’s a better pirate than all of us, it seems.”

Gibbs grunted and took another swallow of rum. “Bloody girl’s brought us naught but trouble, Jack.”

“Has she?” The captain smiled a rare, honest smile. “She got us back the Pearl, didn’t she? In the end. Helped you take it from Barbossa.”

Gibbs shrugged a reluctant agreement. “Aye, maybe. There’s nothing to say we couldn’t have done that alone, mind.”

Acknowledging the point with a shrug, Jack rose to his feet in one fluid motion. His gaze ranged up to the dark cliffs that were golden in the twilight. “Barbossa still has his eye on the Pearl,” he said softly. “If something should happen…” He turned, levelling a finger at Gibbs. “If I should not live to see sunset tomorrow, you’re to take the Pearl, savvy? I’ll not have that treacherous dog captain my ship while I—” He smiled, a bitter baring of teeth. “The Pearl is yours.”

Gibbs stared in astonishment for a moment, then shook his head and scrambled upright. “Me? Are ye mad, Jack? I’m no captain and ye know it!”

“Better you than Ragetti,” Jack pointed out. “And I’ll leave her to the bloody monkey before I leave her to Barbossa!”

“Why all this talk of leaving her to anyone, Jack?” Gibbs scratched at his whiskers, studying his friend in the dim light. “We’ve faced worse than this, and lived to drown our sorrows.”

Jack frowned, his gaze slipping sideways as it always did when lies dripped from his tongue. “Promise me,” he said, “promise me that Barbossa won’t be standing at the helm of this ship when the sun sets tomorrow.”

Gibbs felt his blood grow cold. “He’ll have to climb over my dead body first, Jack, but I’ll tell you again I’m no captain.”

“A custodian, then,” he said, suddenly thoughtful. When he looked at Gibbs again, his face was bright – bright like the glitter of sun on sea. “Give her to the King,” he said, and there was that in his voice that that sounded like exhilaration. “Give her to Elizabeth.”

“To her? After what she—?”

“Swear it!”

“Aye,” Gibbs said, warily. “Aye, I’ll swear it, Jack, if you wish…”

“Good.” Jack nodded, seeming to relax. “Good, then.”

Gibbs scratched his whiskers, watching the shadows play over his captain’s tired face. “Perhaps you should sleep awhile?” he said. “Night’s drawing on and if we’re to face battle tomorrow…”

“No, no. No sleep.” Jack turned away and headed for the rail. “To sleep perchance to dream, eh? Read that once. All bollocks of course, but the sentiment holds true. And I’ve plenty of that to come.”

It was customary for Gibbs not to understand one word in ten the captain spoke, so he simply ignored his blathering and came to stand with him at the rail in silence. Above them, on the edge of the cliffs, he saw figures moving in silhouette against the sunset blazing in the west. After a little while he said, “Looks like they’ve some canon up on the ridge.”

Jack’s gaze darted up, his whole body tense; Gibbs had the sudden and distinct impression of a cat sensing her prey. “Batteries are on the north rim,” Jack said softly. “So as to avoid the low sun in the gunner’s eyes at dawn and dusk. Both lethal times of day…”

“Scouts, then?” Gibbs guessed.

“No.” Jack reached out a hand, his fingers curling tight about Gibbs’ wrist. “Dawn and dusk are very much alike, are they not?” His voice was a sharp-edged whisper. “And the birth of the day, it seems, is indistinguishable from its death.”

“Aye, but I don’t—”

Jack grabbed Gibbs’ face with both hands, fixing him with a forceful look. “A man could have no truer friend then you,” he said, pressing a firm kiss against Gibbs’ face. “Steer clear of the rocks, mate, for tomorrow there’ll blow a storm the like of which you’ll never see again. And remember me sometimes, eh? Remember me when you raise a bottle, and tell a tall tale of Captain Jack Sparrow.”

With that he was gone, racing across the ship and down the gangplank. Dumbfounded, Gibbs followed, stopping at the ship’s rail and watching as Jack darted along the wharf. Behind him he sensed the rest of the crew looking on, shifting and anxious.

“Jack!” The voice belonged to Will Turner who came pelting along the quay in the opposite direction. “Jack! You have to stop her!”

Jack didn’t break stride, he simply seized the boy’s arm and kept on running.

***


Elizabeth recalled a tale told long ago by Mr Pullin, her tutor during her early years in Port Royal. A tall, thin man with a beaky nose – she and Will had named him Mr Puffin – his back had been slightly hunched and he’d watched the world through bright and beady eyes. The modern world of trade and Empire seemed to offend him with its brash tastes and lavish fashions, and he’d frequently harkened back to a time when – he said – men knew how to be men. To illustrate his point, Mr Pullin would often cite the example of the poor deposed King, who had insisted on wearing two shirts to his execution lest his shivering from the cold be mistaken for fear by the gathered crowd.

Elizabeth thought of that story as she followed Teague up the narrow path worn into the side of the cliffs that surrounded Shipwreck Cove. Though she was to meet her fate in coat and britches, a cold wind sliced in from the sea and she found herself shivering. Unlike King Charles, however, Elizabeth didn’t care who knew she was afraid – only a simpleton would have no fear of the fate she was about to embrace. No, her real concern was whether or not she would have the strength to carry out her task – whether, when the time came, she would be able to pull the dagger from her belt and plunge it into the human heart of the goddess. She had never killed in cold blood.

Beyond Teague she could see the crest of the cliff, the sky turning from azure to indigo behind it; sunset could not be far away. Her stomach tightened, rolled like pebbles in the surf. Her life these past months had been difficult, full of grief and pain, yet she found herself longing for more of it – a moment to see Will’s face again, to watch the sun rise one more time, to taste the sweetness of an orange. The chance to see Mercer die at her hand, knowing who had dealt the killing blow; the chance to touch her lips to Jack’s and find forgiveness there…

“Not much further.” Teague’s voice rumbled from above her and she realised she had stopped walking. “Are you thirsty?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a flask. His hand, she noticed, shook. “Here, t’will do y’good.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Where is Calypso?” she asked, squinting up at the top of the cliff.

“Waiting,” Teague said, taking a swig from the flask and returning it to his coat. “Been waiting two-hundred years, eh? She’ll not likely be late.”

In silence, Elizabeth started walking again, her boots leaving no mark on the hard-baked soil. No sign of her passing. Deliberately she dug the toe of her boot into the dry ground, to leave some fleeting evidence of this final walk. As she climbed, she wondered what the goddess would look like, this creature who had been bound for two-hundred years. Her heart thundered as she imagined some mad, wretched creature with scratching claws and biting teeth who had spent an eternity locked in a cage of men’s devising; what terrible torments would such a monster inflict in retribution?

Elizabeth felt sick, her mouth dry and her knees threatening to surrender as Teague disappeared over the brow of the cliff. Run, whispered a voice. Run, and don’t look back. This is nothing to you! Find Will, he’ll save you. He’ll take you back to Port Royal, keep you safe…

Except only the noose awaited her in Port Royal, and she knew that there was no safety left in the world. Besides, if she ran from this fate then another would be doomed to take her place. She knew how bleak the world would be without Jack Sparrow’s fierce spirit; she had deprived it of him once and would not do so again. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. There was justice in this, after all, and perhaps redemption.

Curling fingers almost numb with fear about the hilt of the dagger, she followed Teague to the top of the cliff. And there she stopped dead, for there was none to greet her but Tia Dalma, Barbossa hovering close behind. Elizabeth looked from her to Teague and back again and found the witch staring at her with a frown upon her brow, the wind whipping her hair about her face.

“Not who you were expecting, eh?” Teague’s voice was bright with triumph and Elizabeth was unsure who he addressed.

Tia Dalma planted a hand on her hip. “You send dis child?” she snapped, glaring at Teague. “You send dis child in payment of de debt?” She swiped her hand through the air, a rough slashing gesture. “I will not take her; de debt demand de blood of one of yer own.”

I will not take her… Elizabeth stared. Weird, powerful – now she thought on it, who else could it have been?

“She is one of our own,” Teague said. “Pirate King, no less, and bearer of the eighth coin.”

Stalking forward, Tia Dalma seized Elizabeth’s chin in her bony fingers, tipping her face that she might gaze into her eyes. “De payment must be given freely,” she said to Teague. “What deception have you wrought here, Morgan Teague, that this chil’ should give up her life for you? What spell have you cast upon her?”

“None,” he replied. “The girl comes willingly, don’t you?”

Jerking her chin out of the witch’s grasp, Elizabeth snatched the dagger from her belt and held it out in warning. “I do. And who better to honour the debt than the Pirate King?” Tia Dalma stepped back, her frown deepening, and Elizabeth studied her briefly. “You’re Calypso?”

“Aye, some part of her. An’ all dat you can see.”

“Then this knife is for you.” Her soul quaked, but she was pleased that her hand remained steady.

“Dis is not de destiny I saw for you, girl.”

“Destiny is a matter of choice,” Elizabeth said, stepping forward and lifting the knife. The horizon was a fiery line, night’s approach measured in heartbeats. “And I choose this!”

Seconds passed in silence, as the swamp woman considered Elizabeth through narrow, pitch coloured eyes.

“Do you accept her, Calypso?” Elizabeth was surprised to hear Teague’s voice sounding almost meek. “Do you accept her as payment of the debt?”

He drew in a sharp breath of anticipation as Tia Dalma raised her hands to the bodice of her dress, pulling the fabric aside above her breast. “De payment is fair,” she hissed. Then her head lifted to the sky, eyes closed. “Do it, den! I’ve waited so long…so long…”

In the twilight, the dagger flashed gold, glinting brighter than the setting sun. Elizabeth lifted her arm, her breath a lead weight in her chest, and—

A hand grabbed her wrist, biting like iron. “Stop.”

With a gasp she turned, legs almost giving way at the sight of Jack standing before her. He was breathing hard, must have been running, and his eyes were storm dark and furious. Behind him, she glimpsed Will’s anxious face, pale in the failing light. “Let me,” she whispered, blood racing through her ears and making her deaf to all but her own terror. Please let me!

His hand didn’t loosen its grip, but his gaze shot to Teague. “What is this?”

“It’s the way out I’ve spent forty year looking for.” Teague drew closer, the crags in his face revealing his own fears at last. His own desperation. “Son, let her do it. Let her save you.”

“Jack…?”

He looked at her again, a touch of hope in his eyes. The fingers holding her wrist relaxed slightly as her arm fell to her side. “Is it redemption you’re after? Is that what this is?”

“I have my own debt to pay, Jack.” Her voice shook, but she ignored it. “You know I do. Let me pay it.”

“I’d never have asked this of you.”

“I know.” His fingers were still clasped about her wrist; they felt warm, she could feel heat radiating from him in waves and yearned for it as she yearned for life. But she knew she could have neither. “I would like your… Before I— Jack, please, do I have your forgiveness?”

To her surprise he lifted a finger to touch her cheek and she knew it was a gesture of farewell. “My forgiveness, love. And my thanks.”

So softly spoken were his words, so earnest, that her eyes filled with tears and she had to look away, down at her feet where they stood toe-to-toe. She felt his fingers beneath her chin, lifting her face so that he could look her in the eye again. Tears fell warm upon her cold cheek and she did not wipe them away, for she could see the truth of his forgiveness in his eyes and nothing else mattered. His hand, still about her wrist, seemed to burn like hot iron, but when his lips touched hers – gentle at first, then swift and hungry – there was no other sensation in the world but that first and final kiss. Her heart soared and shattered, falling in glittering shards as the sun finally sank below the horizon and sent her dying light skimming for a final time across the waves.

This moment will sustain me, for two-hundred years of torment, this moment will sustain me.

Then his hand dropped away from her face and he pulled back. She could see his pulse racing at the base of his throat, see his chest rising and falling too fast. “I’m not sorry,” he whispered.

And with one quicksilver motion it was done; her wrist was twisted, the knife was gone, and Jack had spun around. A woman screamed, blood bloomed across Tia Dalma’s chest, and Jack cradled her in a lover’s embrace, long fingers curled about the knife he’d plunged into her breast.

Someone was yelling – Teague, surging forward, Will struggling to hold him back – and then Tia Dalma was falling, her limbs entwined with Jack’s, and the golden dagger glittered as together they tumbled over the cliff edge and down toward the crashing sea below.

Elizabeth thought she could hear the woman screaming as she fell, agonised and desperate, until she realised the cries were her own wild despair. And then the water claimed them, closing over their heads as the waves battered the black, jagged cliffs, and Teague let out a howl of rage and anguish that drowned out everything but the sound of Elizabeth’s breaking heart.

Blood had been spilt. One of their own.

Jack Sparrow was dead.

***

Comments

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Posted by: kenton_bomb (kenton_bomb)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)

I haven't even read it yet and the icon makes me sad lol...then I accidentally saw the last line!! Silly me.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
Redux - Jones

Oh no, don't read the last line first! lol

Posted by: alana1079 (alana1079)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
pic#77018066

“I’m not sorry,” he whispered.

You know, deep down I knew he'd stop her. That's Jack. Always ahead of the game, even if the players change the rules. I have to admit this made me tear up. Our dear Jackie, gone from us. I do trust you'll give him back to us, whole and well.

Very well written chapter. There was emotion, adventure, and you even gave us a cliffhanger worthy of the name. Well done. Words cannot express how quickly I want Sunday to be here.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)
Redux - Blacksmith

Thanks so much for commenting! :) Really pleased you liked this chapter - it was a biggie!

Lots more to come, but I'm not giving any clues! *g*



Posted by: tuesday_suit (tuesday_suit)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
Hand up

“Ever tried keeping secrets from him, love?”

An impossible task if there ever was one. :-)

“What if I told you there was a way to save him?” he said. “What then, Miss Swann?”

Teague, what are you playing at? He's definitely got a plan....

“Aye,” he said after a pause. “An’ much more’n that too.”

At least he's honest about it. :-P

And, suddenly, Will thought that they might be strangers, these two individuals in the tumbledown shack, that they weren’t the same people who, in that very place, had learned the mysteries of each other’s bodies and shared an experience new to both of them.

I don't relish the thought of them together, but this scene was so very sad. :-(

The day had seen Jack Sparrow in fey mood, drifting like a strange spirit about his ship, touching line and beam with clever fingers and whispering nonsense into the breeze that swept about the Cove.

I love this image of him.

“Better you than Ragetti,” Jack pointed out.

Hee! Captain Ragetti. Now that would be a sight. A frightening one, but a sight nonetheless. ;-)

“Give her to the King,” he said, and there was that in his voice that that sounded like exhilaration. “Give her to Elizabeth.”

Ohhh, of course. Who else?

“To sleep perchance to dream, eh? Read that once. All bollocks of course"

Hee!

“Steer clear of the rocks, mate, for tomorrow there’ll blow a storm the like of which you’ll never see again. And remember me sometimes, eh? Remember me when you raise a bottle, and tell a tall tale of Captain Jack Sparrow.”

*sniff*

She knew how bleak the world would be without Jack Sparrow’s fierce spirit; she had deprived it of him once and would not do so again.

So brave, Lizzie. Why do I get the feeling that it won't do any good?

A hand grabbed her wrist, biting like iron. “Stop.”

Ah, there he is. :-)

“I’m not sorry,” he whispered.

That line was perfect there. Completely perfect.

Blood had been spilt. One of their own.

Jack Sparrow was dead.


You are both mean, mean women. *sigh* Bring him back soon, won't you? Please?

Posted by: tuesday_suit (tuesday_suit)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Mussed

Oh, and P.S. I loved it. Of course. :-)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ruby_scott (ruby_scott)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)

Good Lord. Just...bloody stupendous. Guh. I can barely form words.

'Elizabeth thought she could hear the woman screaming as she fell, agonised and desperate, until she realised the cries were her own wild despair.' I was actually managing to read without becoming overly emotional- but that was the line that did it for me.

Beautiful. Amazing work. :o) x

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
Redux - King

Wow, thanks so much! I'm so pleased we managed to pack a couple of emotional punches. :)

And thanks for taking the time to let us know you enjoyed it - more to come on Sunday!

Posted by: Anne (ladyofthesilent)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Rain

Oh, wow ... luckily, I'm alone here. I jumped up several times while reading this chapter, changed the music ... I do so wish I could have seen this on screen, sitting in the cinema where your best friend will hand you hankies and popcorn at the first sign of tears. This was fantastic, probably the best chapter so far. Quite possibly one of the most intense moments of fanfiction I've ever enjoyed in this fandom.

The thing is: This chapter was all about betrayal and manipulation, but there was no villain in this, none at all. Just a father who wanted his son to live, a woman who wanted to save the man she loved and two men who'd finally accepted their fates - and yet made their own choices.

Will was fantastic. He's what he should have been in the movies: A character that could have originated from a fantasy movie like Harry Potter or Star Wars. He's the classical hero, the one with a touch of destiny who seems to be surrounded my mythical implications. And yet, he's still human, struggling to find his own path, make his own choices and save those he loves - including Elizabeth. And more than that: He's grown wise, which was clearly perceptible during the scene in the shack where he and Lizzie had spent their first (and probably only) night together. I love you for turning him into some kind of Luke Skywalker rather than a complete jerk or a completely unimportant character, just to be brushed aside quickly so Jack and Elizabeth can get together.

The dialogue between Jack and Elizabeth was intense. Here, we saw two people who loved Jack. Both were willing to do anything to save him - and yet, there was the bitter taste of manipulation, of Teague having betrayed Elizabeth. I've been wondering all the time what he was up to when he watched Jack and Elizabeth sleep. So glad the foreshadowing was put to good use here. I thoroughly enjoyed the character's schemes, yet dictated by emotions that are telling of a father who dearly loves his son. BTW, I love the notion that Jack was born in a swamp, and that you granted him the age of forty (I hate it when people claim he's just around 35).

The turns and twists in this chapter are truly the work of a genius. First, we were surprised by the possibility of Elizabeth taking Jack's place. Then, Will steps in, Jack arrives, it seems as if he'll accept her sacrifice - and then ... BANG!

Fabulous! And I absolutely loved their kiss, right in front of Will, Teague and Tia/Calypso. And now I wonder what it will lead to - for surely, this is not the end ;)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
Redux - Musician

Wow! Thank you so, so much. You always seem to hit the nail on the head, which makes me hopeful that we're managing to express ourselves properly!

This chapter was all about betrayal and manipulation

Yes, yes, exactly. And you're right, no one's motives were bad. As Teague has maintained all along, destiny is a matter of choice in the end - and we've seen Jack make his. I'm so pleased this theme came across.

And your comments on Will really make me happy because we worked quite hard to give him a role we felt did him justice as a character. Luke Skywalker is the perfect comparison, I'm pretty sure he was probably in both our minds to some degree.

I was also over the moon that you thought our foreshadowing with Teague paid off - I'm always afraid the pay off won't be enough, so I'm thrilled you like it. (And thrilled you recognised the foreshadowing!)

I actually wrote a drabble about Jack's birth, set in the Redux 'verse, a few months ago. I might repost it, and a few other Redux drabbles, once we've finished posting the story. Really pleased that image worked for you too, I like the idea of Jack being one of Tia Dalma's people. :)

for surely, this is not the end

Eight more chapters to go! *g*

Wonderful comments, as always, and a real pleasure for us to digest. Thanks so very much for taking the time. :)



Edited at 2008-07-24 09:47 pm (UTC)

Posted by: kenton_bomb (kenton_bomb)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
ML Badges

Yay, I've read it now! And I have to say in the words of John Barrowman, that was 'Fantastic, Fantastic, Fantastic!' :) I liked it...just in case you couldn't tell.

I loved the callback to DMC 'De payment is fair' and the other, 'I'm not sorry'. And then there was the kiss lol, what I'm sure we've all ben waiting for. You write so beautiful, the both of you, it was such a sad moment yet it was wonderful.

Of course it was always going to be Jack, he would never have let her do it instead of him. But I loved the twist and the sinister Teague trying to get Elizabeth to do it instead.

I have faith that we'll get our beloved Jack back, but even if we didn't then I'm sure this story won't cease to be briliant anyway.

Well done once again, sorry I haven't commented recently. Computer troubles, but rest assured I've been loving it - just quietly.

I think I might die waiting until sunday, if I do can I send my funeral expenses to you and Laura please :)

Great work. Xx

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
redux - Jack

Thanks so much! I'm really pleased you enjoyed it, despite the icon and the last line! lol

I'm really pleased you liked the J/E in this chapter - even if it didn't end too well. ;)

I'm saying nothing about what's to come, but I do hope you continue to enjoy the story! And, as always, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to let us know you liked it!

Posted by: Claudia Mary Gacrux (cmgacrux)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)

Beautiful and heartbreaking.

My hands are shaking. Seriously.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Redux - Song

Wow, thanks so much! I'm so pleased it was so effective. :)

Posted by: Lady Di (lady_di75)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
jackscoundrel

His hand, still about her wrist, seemed to burn like hot iron, but when his lips touched hers – gentle at first, then swift and hungry – there was no other sensation in the world but that first and final kiss. Her heart soared and shattered, falling in glittering shards as the sun finally sank below the horizon and sent her dying light skimming for a final time across the waves.

This moment will sustain me, for two-hundred years of torment, this moment will sustain me.

Then his hand dropped away from her face and he pulled back. She could see his pulse racing at the base of his throat, see his chest rising and falling too fast. “I’m not sorry,” he whispered.


The icon alone was enough to put a lump in my throat... this was absolute, exquisite torture. I've got to go find a box of tissues... this was lovely. Oh, so beautiful. Thank you.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
redux - Jack

Oh, thanks so much hon! So pleased you enjoyed the pain. ;)

I don't want to give anything away, but stay tuned. *g* More to come!

Posted by: lady_linnet (lady_linnet)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
sparrabeth because:

Oh, my God. Honestly speechless. Absolutely brilliant.

...Wow.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
Redux - Musician

Hee! Thank you! :) More to come on Sunday!

Posted by: The Deep Blue Ocean (creativeideas)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)

Absolutely beautiful and totally devastating both at the same time, fabulous work ladies! Despite evidence to the contrary, I am still confident that this is not the end of Jack and I seriously can't wait to find out what happens next :-)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
Redux - Admiral

I'm saying nothing about your confidence, but keep reading! ;)

So pleased you enjoyed this, and thanks for dropping us a line to let us know!

Posted by: wicked_plum7 (wicked_plum7)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
kk: lizzie's secret


Soooo...

You plan on resurrecting him on Sunday???

Jesus *coughs* I loved everything about this chapter! Ofcourse Elizabeth would try to sacrifice herself...but you see that's not how the myth goes, and that is not her Destiny. Jack, the trickster god himself knew what he was born to do...so he did it. I love him for that, for seeing it through, and for loving Elizabeth that much. Gorgeous writing here ladies. I really felt for Teague at the end, and for poor Mr. Gibbs as he'll be so heartbroken when he finds out.

So yeah, about Sunday.*crosses fingers*

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
Redux - ship

*Seals lips!*

I'm so glad you enjoyed this - Jack the trickster, indeed. :) I really hope you enjoy where we're going with this, but I don't want to say more for fear of spoiling you. :)

As always, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really apprecaite it. More to come on Sunday!

Posted by: megcantsleep (megcantsleep)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)

I haven't been commenting on every chapter, but I am absolutely crazy about this story. It's everything that AWE should have been.
It really is such an accomplishment, and I hope this isn't the only collaboration between the both of you!

"Then his hand dropped away from her face and he pulled back. She could see his pulse racing at the base of his throat, see his chest rising and falling too fast. “I’m not sorry,” he whispered."

I wish I had a recording of the loud gasp I let out as I read that part. I feel like I knew it was coming, but it hit me hard, anyway.
Sunday seems so, so, far away.

Anyway, fantastic chapter. Absolutely fantastic.

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 25th, 2008 07:36 am (UTC)
Redux - comm

I'm so glad you're enjoying the story! That's such a wonderful compliment, and I expect Laura and I will be collaborating again. *g* It was too much fun not to!

I really hope you enjoy what's coming up in the next few chapters, and thanks, as always, for taking the time to read and comment. :)

Posted by: awickedwench (awickedwench)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
Jack

Oh, Jack....

This chapter was so beautifully written, and had so emotion in it. And again, I don't think I could breathe until I read the last words. The dialogue (and the callbacks) between Jack and Elizabeth at the end...heartwrenching.
Somehow, I don't think Beckett is going to be too happy that Jack isn't around and he be denied his moment. Hmmmmmmmmmm. ;)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 25th, 2008 07:37 am (UTC)
Redux - Tyrant

Thank you! Really pleased you enjoyed this one, it was a biggie for us.

You're right about Beckett and we'll be returning to his story quite soon. Lots more to come!

Thanks, as ever, for taking the time to read and comment. We really appreciate it. :)

Posted by: wicked and astute (cortie)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC)
angst

NOOOOO!!!

I hate ya'll so much. HATE hate hate hate. But also love. Because this is lovely and wonderful and I look forward to it every week.

Thanks and also - you suck and this better turn out... better. Grrr!

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 25th, 2008 07:39 am (UTC)
Redux - Song

Love and hate - can't get much better than that! *g*

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I'm so pleased you enjoyed (kind of!) this chapter. And remember what they say - it ain't over till it's over! Lots more to come. :)

Posted by: Bell B. (bellbubble)
Posted at: July 24th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I'll write a decent comment once I can *breath* again...)

Posted by: SalR323 (salr323)
Posted at: July 25th, 2008 07:40 am (UTC)
Redux - King

LOL!!

What a fab reaction. *g* Much more to come, this story's not over yet. :)

49 Read Comments
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