The Cove was in chaos, people were running everywhere and the alarm bells clanged as if the fleet of the line were at the door. Will pushed down the narrow, labyrinthine corridors of the city, trying to get to the Great Hall, but it seemed as though everyone else was running in the opposite direction.
“What’s happening?” he asked, grabbing the arm of a passing old salt.
“Treason,” the man said, rheumy eyes blinking as if not quite recognising him. Most here knew the former captain of the Dutchman by reputation only, though Will found he knew them better. Something of the past ten years lingered and he could see more than he wished in the faces of those that surrounded him; he dropped the old man’s arm in a hurry, masking a shiver at the feel of his insipient death. The man blinked again. “Someone threatened the King, they say.”
“Threatened?” Concern beat a swift tattoo in his chest and even now, a year on, the sensation felt strange. “Was she hurt?”
“The scoundrel ran away,” the man said. “Won’t get far here, though.” And with that he was off, bandy legs carrying him up the twisting stairs of the city as though it were the rigging.
This wasn’t the first time some pretender had challenged Elizabeth for the kingship, and was yet another reason Will longed to be away from this filthy place. Her life here was precarious, he could feel it as surely in her as in the old man who’d just left; it was as if part of her had already crossed over and dwelt in the other world. Or had never left…
It wasn’t a subject upon which he liked to linger. Dismissing the thought he pressed on toward the Great Hall and, he hoped, Elizabeth. But somewhere along the way he must have taken a wrong turn because he suddenly found himself entirely alone on a very narrow and suspiciously damp staircase. It wasn’t the first time he’d become lost in this maze of a city, and he supposed if he’d taken more time to explore he might have known it better, but the truth was he hated its rotting timbers and dead ships and wanted nothing more than to leave its confines whenever he could.
Cursing himself he turned around to climb back up, only to see a figure creeping carefully from a door leading off the stairs above. Clean shaven, hair curling to his jaw and obscuring his face, he moved with a lithe grace – and stopped dead when he saw Will.
His heart beat exactly once.
And then the man had a pistol drawn and aimed at his head. “Well, well,” he said softly, walking carefully down the stairs, “here’s a chance meeting if ever there was one, eh? Quite the coincidence, the stuff of legend, as it were. Husband to the Pirate King.” He drew closer, his mouth sliding into a gold-flecked smile. “I’ve often wondered, mate… Does that make you the Pirate Queen?”
Will’s eyes widened. “Jack?”
“The very same. Only, quite different.”
He certainly looked different; the hair, the trinkets, the ridiculous beard, all gone. And younger too, if it were possible. Certainly not a decade older than when last they’d met. “What’s happened to you?”
“Everything, mate. Bit of life, bit of death. And madness in between. ‘Tis life, all in all, eh?”
“You’re the one they’re looking for,” Will realised immediately, reaching for his sword. “You’re the one who threatened Elizabeth!”
“Now, now, lad,” Jack said, cocking his pistol. “We’ve been here before, haven’t we? And think how that ended.”
Will paused, resting his hand on the hilt of his weapon. “It ended with you in gaol.”
Jack twitched an eyebrow in acknowledgment. “And in you freeing me from said gaol, and then in all manner of weird adventures, culminating in the marriage betwixt yourself and the treacherous Pirate King, and the brutal cutting out of your heart. We’d not want a repeat of all that, would we?”
“It’s hardly likely.”
“You never know,” Jack said, moving closer, his pistol still raised. “The world’s a strange place, whichever way up it turns.”
Will sighed at the man’s inimitable peculiarity. “What are you doing here, Jack?”
“Leaving,” came the smooth reply. “But what about you, your Highness? What are you doing here? I’d have thought, after a decade at sea, you’d want your feet on dry land, not among these rotting timbers.”
“I—” Will looked away, conscious of revealing too much to Jack’s sharp eyes and yet not sure how to answer truthfully.
“Ah… So that’s how it is, then.” Jack’s smile was slow and knowing. “The King would rather stay in the counting house, while the Queen wants to eat bread and honey in the parlour.” He leaned closer, a calculating look in his eyes. “Perhaps I can help solve your problem, eh?”
“And how would you do that?”
Jack leaned against the wall, head cocked speculatively, and his pistol still trained on Will. “How about we forgo the swordplay and instead make an accord? We’ve both had enough of death, I’ll warrant, these past years.”
There was a tightness in his voice and a darkness in his eyes that spoke of a deeper truth than his words declared. It made Will nervous. “What kind of accord did you have in mind?”
“You help me recover me stolen property, and I lure the King from her counting house. You crew for me and she’ll have no course but to follow – to rescue her Queen from the clutches of Mad Jack Sparrow, eh? I put you ashore upon some lost Paradise and there you remind your liege what it is to make hay upon honest ground. Savvy? She’ll never want to return to this crab infested place again.”
“And what stolen property would that be?” Will asked, brows raised. “Not your compass again…”
“No, not that. Been rid of that a long time and glad of it.” He smiled and drew closer, the barrel of his pistol suddenly cool against the side of Will’s head, his warm fingers brushing over Will’s hand where it rested on the hilt of his sword. “I’m talking about the rescue of me one true love, mate.”
“Elizabeth? If you expect me to—”
“Don’t be an idiot.” Jack’s face was suddenly storm-dark. “I’m talking about the Pearl.” And then he pounced like a tiger, a deft twist of his wrist and Will’s sword was in his hand. Cursing himself, Will made a grab for his blade, too late, and Jack danced out of reach. “What say you, then, Captain Turner?”
“I say you’ve spent too long chasing that ship, Jack. Do you even know where she is?”
“She’s right here.” He slid Will’s sword into his sash. “In this port.”
“Then why do you need to steal her?”
His face twitched. “Mutiny. Scabrous dogs. But they’re all ashore now, will be an easy task to free her.”
“And why should I help you, Jack? One shout would bring men running before you’d fired a shot.”
“But I would fire the shot,” Jack said, deadly earnest, “never doubt that.” He smiled suddenly, swaggering closer. “Besides, you want to help me. You want to leave this turbid place, and who can blame you? You want to remove the King from these pirates, and the pirate from said King – and you know you’ll not do it here.” With a magician’s sleight of hand the pistol was tucked into his sash and his arm outstretched. “What say you, William Turner? Do we have an accord?”
Will glanced once up the narrow, rotting staircase toward a world that was not his. Jack was right about one thing – his life with Elizabeth could never start here. He’d never been a pirate, he’d never wanted to thieve his way around the world, and if he could just remind Elizabeth of the life that existed beyond all this madness – a life of honest work and honest happiness – then perhaps he could reclaim the woman he had fought and died for. He fixed Jack with a steely look, but did not take his hand. “We sail for the Caribbean.”
“Excellent choice, mate.”
With a curt nod, and refusing to doubt himself, Will said, “Then we have an accord, Captain Sparrow.”
When Elizabeth reached her quarters Teague was already there, standing with his shoulder against the wall and staring through the bottle-glass window into the cloudy morning. She said nothing, a hand on Gibbs’ arm holding him silent, though it was probably unnecessary; the presence of the legend kept most men tongue-tied.
There was no sign of Will, which was hardly a surprise – the alarms had been ringing non-stop and no doubt he’d gone to investigate the trouble. But she hoped he’d be back soon; the sight of Jack in such a state had shaken her deeply and she longed for Will’s comforting touch.
His forgiving touch, a quiet voice suggested. Someone to lie and say this was not your fault, or that the price was worth paying…
“Enri spoke the truth, then,” Teague rumbled. “About Jack’s madness.”
“So it would seem,” Elizabeth said quietly. “I’ve men searching the city for Jack, under strict injunction not to hurt him.”
“They’ll not find him,” Teague said, turning away from the window to look at her; for the first time in a decade of knowing the man she saw pain glitter in his eyes. “My boy could always disappear like mist in this place.”
“And there’s no need to search.” The voice, soft and lilting, came from the doorway. “I know where he is, or where he will be.”
It was Enriquillo Barahona, silent as a ghost in his soft leather boots.
Elizabeth smiled, relieved to see him. “He’ll go after the Pearl,” she guessed. “I’ve set men to watch.”
Teague laughed, a sound like the crash of waves against rocks. “No doubt that will deter him.”
Pressing her lips together she said, “He’s a mortal man and can be captured, Captain. He has been, several times.”
“Never quite mortal, was our Jackie,” Teague said softly, gazing out of the window again. “Always a touch of the faerie folk about that boy.”
Elizabeth noticed the expression on Enriquillo’s face tighten, as though pained by an old wound. When he noticed her watching he offered a rueful smile and pushed a wisp of straight, black hair from his face. “The bohiques of my village can help Jack, but only if we bring him to Borikén. And there is only one way to ensure that he comes there without violence.”
“Which is what?” Elizabeth asked.
“To take the Pearl, before Jack does. And then he will follow.”
There was a long silence before she said, “Take the Pearl?”
“I’ll not take Jack’s ship,” Gibbs said roughly. “Meaning no disrespect, Mr. Barahona. But I’ve more loyalty to Captain Jack than to any man in this world, and I’ll not have him call me mutineer.”
Enriquillo smiled. “You are a good man, Joshamee Gibbs. In you, Jack placed his trust wisely.” He stepped closer, taking Gibbs by the arm and fixing him with a steady look. “But you, above all, have seen his madness.”
Gibbs gave a short, uncomfortable nod. “Aye, that I have, sir. ‘Tis a grievous thing, to see any man so afflicted.”
“It burns in his mind,” Enriquillo said softly, “day and night. He cannot rest, cannot sleep. The only sound in his head is his own voice, talking around and around and around. Nothing but words, and them no more than a bit of empty air. And there’s no escape. Nowhere to go, in the end…”
“The captain’s own words,” Gibbs breathed, eyes wide. “I’ve heard him utter them often enough.”
Enriquillo nodded. “Because he is still there, my friend. In the Locker. Do you see? His mind is snared like an animal trapped, though his terror is deeper than that of any beast because he knows… He lives his death every day, over and over, knowing what is to come and yet unable to escape.” Tears stood, now, in his coal-black eyes and Elizabeth felt the truth of his words sear her heart. “Please, friend, help release my brother from this torment.”
Gibbs scratched at his head; a man of the world, to be sure, but he knew there was more in heaven and earth than dreamt of in any man’s rational mind. “You can free him of this madness?”
“Not me, but the bohiques – the healer – of my people can.”
“And when he is cured…?”
Enriquillo smiled. “You know me, Mr. Gibbs. What use would I have for the Black Pearl?”
Gibbs seemed satisfied with that answer, nodded once and turned to Elizabeth. “Davies and the rest of the company won’t be so easily persuaded.”
“They’ll not defy their King,” Elizabeth assured him. “And any who choose to remain in the Cove will be compensated their share.”
“’Tis a reasonable—”
There was a noise at the door and Sanders appeared, grim faced. “Captain Swann,” he said, closing the door behind him. “Some news.”
Elizabeth felt a flutter of fear in her chest, though if she were afraid of Jack or for him, she couldn’t tell. Both, in all likelihood. “Tell me.”
Sanders drew closer. “Found this,” he said, throwing a cloth package onto the table. It unrolled slightly and Elizabeth’s heart tripped up. From inside the faded read cloth – a bandana – spilled ropes of black hair, bedecked with all too familiar trinkets and beads.
She looked up at Sanders. “What does this mean?”
“He’s hiding himself,” the man said. “Well known here, ain’t he? Not so much now, though.”
Teague moved, slow as a mountain, his tar-black fingers brushing the locks of Jack’s hair. “More than that,” he rumbled. “More than disguise, this.”
“A man who cannot live with himself will try to destroy himself,” Enriquillo agreed softly, his eyes lifting to Elizabeth’s. “We must find him quickly, before the Locker claims him.”
If she could have but a moment to think, but she knew Jack – knew how fast he worked – and knew there was no time to waste; a decision must be made, and made now. She took a deep breath and said, “To the Pearl.” From the corner of her eye saw a flicker of relief cross Teague’s face. “Gibbs, tell the crew that the Black Pearl is now the property of the Pirate King and that any who wish to sail with her are to report to the ship immediately. Those who do not will be suitably recompensed.” She turned to Teague. “Liam… Captain, please explain this to my son, and to Will, as best you can. Tell them I’ll return as soon as I’m able.”
Teague nodded, still fingering the trinkets from Jack’s hair. “I’ll do right by your boy,” he promised, lifting free a familiar piece of blue and gold shine, “and you do right by mine.” With a strength that belied his age, he seized Elizabeth’s hand and pressed the trinket into it. “He’ll want this, when he is himself again.”
The fierce love – a parent’s love – in the old man’s eyes surprised her. She found herself giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. “I’ll see that he gets it.”
Gruffly, Teague pulled his fingers from hers. “Then go,” he said, “with God’s speed and the Devil’s luck.”
Jack lead him to the docks by no route Will – nor anyone else, he suspected – had ever taken before. They skulked along corridors so narrow and barnacle encrusted that they were, most likely, not corridors at all, but simply the veins and arteries of the architectural madness that was Shipwreck Cove. For all that, however, they had the advantage of being empty.
“I’d come here as a child,” Jack murmured as he slowed, coming to a crouch in the shadows of a passage that ended in daylight, “when I wished to avoid a thrashing. Lived here for days, sometimes.”
“Really? Captain Teague seems a gentle man…”
Jack snorted. “He seems an old man, I’ll grant you. But he wasn’t always so, eh? Nor always so gentle.” He held up a hand to forestall a response. “The Pearl’s moored not a hundred yards to our right, but most likely she’ll be guarded. We’ll swim around to starboard and climb aboard.”
“And the two of us can take her out of port?”
Jack paused and made as if to tug on his braided beard, only there was nothing there. Instead he pushed tangled hair behind his ears. “It might be that we need more of a crew. Enough to make her ready, at least, before we tip ’em into the briny.”
“I’ll send no man to his death,” Will said firmly. He’d made that vow long ago, in his first year aboard the Dutchman.
Jack cast him a sideways look. “And what do you know of death, eh? Only seen its misty shores, I imagine.” He turned away, squinting out into the daylight. “There’s naught to fear in death, mate, ’tis the other place men would do best to avoid.” Without further comment, he began to creep toward the end of the narrow fissure in the Cove, and then disappeared into the cold light of day.
Following, Will had to squint a moment, despite the overcast skies, before he could make out where he stood. The docks were quiet, unnaturally so, and he supposed most of the Cove’s inhabitants were in the city, searching for the man he was – perversely – helping to escape.
As promised, the Pearl sat at anchor further down the quay, but there was no sign of Jack. Unless…? Was that a pair of boots, sticking out from behind the bulk of crates recently off-loaded from the Gorrión? Glancing around, Will hurried over and saw a man he didn’t recognise unconscious upon the dock.
“Had a need to arm myself,” Jack said from behind. “He kindly obliged.”
Will didn’t have to ask, he could tell simply by looking that the man was not dead, nor close to it. Something hard poked him in the back and he turned to see Jack offering him his sword back, hilt first. He took it without comment and sheathed it.
“Ah…” Jack said suddenly. “That too.” He slipped past Will, crouched over the comatose pirate and snatched a black sash from about his waist. He tied it quickly about his head, keeping the hair from his eyes, and let it hang long down his back. “Better.”
In the sunlight, Will could see Jack clearer – could sense… Something. Not death, but very like. Not the sweet corruption of flesh, but a deeper darkness. He felt that, should he reach out and clasp Jack’s hand, he would be able to identify the shadows that haunted the man’s smoky eyes. Instinctively, he drew back. He’d had enough of death and darkness, of the misty shores of eternity, and dreaded being pulled back there – especially by the man who had condemned him to it in the first place.
Jack watched him, as though he saw everything that ran through Will’s mind. “Too alike, you and I,” he said then. “That was always the problem, eh? Entranced by the same piece of shine.”
“We could hardly be more different,” Will objected.
Jack’s smile glittered gold in the sunlight. “Believe it, if you like. But Death has marked us both with her pretty lips, and will let neither of us go. Why else would we be here, eh?”
“There are some who call these ramblings madness, Jack,” Will said impatiently.
He laughed at that. “There are many who call— Bugger.” He jumped to his feet and pushed past Will. “Bloody feculent sons of whoremongers…!”
Will turned. “What are—? Oh.”
“They’re making sail!” Jack hissed. “They’re taking me bloody ship. Again!”
He was right, there were men in the rigging, the sails were unfurling; the Pearl was leaving port. “I thought you said—”
“It’s not my crew,” Jack snarled, darting out from behind the crates and racing down the dock as though he meant to catch her with his bare hands.
After a moment’s hesitation, Will bolted after him. “What are you doing?” he hissed, grabbing Jack’s arm and yanking him to a halt inches from the end of the dock. “Are you mad?”
“Entirely. Now let me go.”
“You mean to swim after her?”
Jack paused, glaring out over the misty sea. Already, the Pearl had pulled too far from the docks, was moving too fast… His face fell. Perhaps it was because he looked so different, with his short hair swept beneath the black bandanna – perhaps it was more difficult for him to hide without his baubles and outlandish persona – but for the first time since he’d known the man, Will Turner saw hopelessness in Jack Sparrow’s eyes. “She was all I had left…”
The restraining hand he’d kept on Jack’s arm turned into a comforting squeeze before he let go. “We’ll catch her.”
Jack shook his head. “Not the Pearl. None faster than the Pearl, mate. Not even your Dutchman.”
“I wasn’t thinking of the Dutchman.” She sailed, now, under his father’s hand and had more pressing matters to attend to than one man’s grieving heart. “There are other ships in the Cove, however, and in this fog…”
But Jack didn’t seem to be listening. His voice was as leaden as the skies and he spoke in a toneless, unceasing mutter. “The Pearl was doomed, that I knew. She’d only had a brief respite from the depths, and me along with her. Thirteen years seemed forever, then. Before Barbossa – rotting maggot of a man – stole her from me. And then again. And yet again, after that…”
“It’s not Barbossa,” Will interrupted. “And whoever it is—” His breath caught suddenly; the Pearl had unfurled her colours. They were flapping damply in the misty air and Will could hardly believe his eyes. “No…”
Jack broke off his muttering, starting as if rudely awoken. After a pause he said, “Now that’s interesting.”
“Would I be right in identifying those colours, flying from me own bloody ship, as belonging to the perfidious Pirate King?”
Will nodded. “What on Earth is she doing?”
“Bloody obvious, isn’t it? She’s stealing my ship.”
“For what purpose, Jack?”
“For what purpose does the wench ever do anything? To vex me.”
It seemed unlikely, but Will could think of no other reason – she’d had no intention of sailing, and if she had, surely she’d have taken her own ship? He cast Jack a quick look. “The Caída del Gorrión is fast. Lighter than the Pearl and well provided with sweeps. In this windless mist, she has the advantage.”
Jack cast him a look, curious beneath his hooded lids. “And to whom does this unfortunate little bird belong?”
“To Elizabeth,” Will said, holding his gaze.
“The Sparrow’s Fall,” Jack mused, returning his attention to the Pearl. “Named in remembrance or triumph, I wonder?”
Will didn’t answer; he’d never asked and Elizabeth had never spoken about the name of her ship.
Then Jack smiled, a cold curl of his lips. “I suppose a fair exchange is no robbery, eh? A Sparrow for a Pearl, as it were.” He looked at Will. “Take me to her, then, and we’ll catch your treacherous liege in the fog.”
Suspicious, Will narrowed his eyes. “And then?”
“Put you both ashore, as we agreed. Marooning is a fitting fate for a mutineer, after all, and I can think of no worser fate for a pirate than to become a farmer.”
Will tried to smile at that as he lead Jack along the dock to the Gorrión but he was afraid that Elizabeth might agree; she had always been far too much like Jack Sparrow for her own good. Or for his.
It had been some months since Elizabeth had left the Cove, and it pained her to do so without taking her leave of Liam – or Will. Not that it was the first time, and in leaving the boy with Teague she was leaving him with the closest thing to a grandfather he had ever known. And wasn’t that one of the stranger knots in the already unusual weave of her life…?
She sighed, and gazed out over the misty sea. “What do you think he will do now?”
Two men stood with her, one on each side of the helm. Neither answered immediately, but eventually Gibbs said, “Who can ever know what Captain Sparrow will do next? ’Tis what makes him so…unique.”
Elizabeth smiled, and felt a stirring in her heart. Something hidden, or forgotten… “Daft, like Jack,” she said quietly, and the words were gilded like a summer memory. “You said that once, Gibbs, of Will and I.”
“Did I now?”
“Not daft,” a quiet voice said. “Whatever else he is, Jack is sharp of mind. Though he conceals it well.”
“There was never a genius without a tincture of madness,” Elizabeth agreed. She turned to look at Enriquillo, his handsome features paler in this light – or perhaps it was the swell of the sea that drained the colour from his face. “Do you think he will attack us?”
“That’s not Jack’s way,” Gibbs said, before Enriquillo could answer. “Not even now, and I’ll stake my life on it. Jack Sparrow was never a man of violence.”
“He’s a pirate,” Enriquillo countered softly.
Gibbs opened his mouth to retort, then snapped it shut. “I’ll not come between brothers,” he grumbled, and turned toward the quarterdeck stairs. “But he’s a good man, and mark my word he’ll not fire upon the Pearl lest he has no choice.”
“Then we had better ensure he has a choice,” Elizabeth said quietly, watching the man stomp across the fog-damp deck.
At her side, Enriquillo said, “Gibbs defends Jack as a brother. He is, perhaps, a better one than I.”
“You would not be here were you not a good brother,” Elizabeth said with a smile. She glanced at the grey skies and sighed. “Come, dine with me. It must be midday and I’ve yet to eat breakfast.”
“A pleasure,” Enriquillo said, his slow smile once more a vivid reminder of his brother. “At least, it is while the seas are this calm. I cannot vouch for my appetite later.”
Elizabeth laughed quietly. “Tell me,” she said, as they headed across the deck toward the captain’s cabin, “how it is that you and Jack are brothers and are yet…”
“So different?” Enriquillo flashed her an amused look, his dark eyes glittering. “Now that is something of a long story.”
“I’m glad of it,” Elizabeth said as she pushed open the cabin door. “For we have a long voyage ahead of us and I love a good story…”
Enriquillo Barahona followed the woman who plagued his brother’s dreams into the cabin in which so many of those dreams had taken place. He reached out to touch the stained wood, anchoring himself to a reality that had sometimes felt tenuous over the past months. He’d been connected to Jack – or to Jackie, as he’d been then – since childhood, though his brother might deny it, but never had the connection been so strong. Nor so painful.
He has need of you, his mother had told him when he first went to her with his dreams. He calls for help, and only you can hear, my son. Are you not natiao?
Brothers, born a year to the day and oceans apart, as opposite and entwined as the land and sea. It seemed strange, now, that the inimitable ‘Jack Sparrow’ should need the help of his younger brother. Then again, perhaps he always had…
“It’s been so long since I’ve been aboard the Pearl,” Elizabeth said quietly, her fingers trailing across the table and chairs at the centre of the cabin. “The first time I was here, you know, the ship was under the command of Barbossa – and was cursed, along with him.”
“The Aztec gold,” Enri said. “Jack told me the story.”
“He saved my life,” she said with a sad-looking smile. “More than once. That was how we met, I suppose…”
“When you fell from the fort in Port Royal.” That was the first mistake, Jack whispered in his mind. Should have left her to drown there. Would have saved me a world of trouble. “He often thinks of that day.”
She looked at him carefully. “Does he?”
Enri just smiled and glanced around at the room, filled with remembrances of Jack’s wanderings, and moved to pick up a chart from the table. “Do you live in Shipwreck Cove, Elizabeth? Or sail the seas, like Jack?”
“A little of both,” she said, taking a seat at the table and indicating for him to do the same. Food had been brought, he noticed, a restrained platter of fruits and hard cheese, some fresh baked bread. “My son lives in the Cove and the sea is no place for a boy.”
“Plenty of boys at sea,” Enri observed, helping himself to an orange. “Your son is ten?”
She nodded. “Old enough now, I suppose.”
“Jack was twelve,” Enri said as he peeled the thick skin from the fruit, “when our father brought him to my village. It was the first time we met.”
“Your… Then you do not share the same mother?”
“No.” He saw no blush to her cheeks; none of the sensibilities of the lady she had once been. “Among my people it is common for women to have more than one husband.”
“Among mine too,” she said with a smile of her own. “Certainly at the Cove; in Port Royal we did not discuss such things, though I doubt they were less common.”
“It is considered a matter of shame, then, among the British, to love more than one man?”
She didn’t answer, her fingers toying with a piece of cheese on her plate. “We are taught that our heart can only be faithful to one other.”
“There are few men, I imagine, who can fulfil all the needs of a woman’s heart – and few women who can do the same for a man.” Enri popped a segment of orange into his mouth and chewed; it was sweet and full of juice. “I prefer the Taíno way.”
“Taíno?” Elizabeth said. “That is the name of your people?”
“But your name is Spanish.”
He smiled. “My mother is mestizo – her father was Spanish, and I bear his name.”
“And your father is from…?”
Enri laughed. “Captain Teague? Perhaps even he has forgotten where he is from – the ocean, maybe. He is of the world.” He sobered and peeled off another segment of fruit. “Jack knows him better than I; he was the real son, I was…an occasional child.” He smiled, to hide the old pain. “He’d not often visit, and when I did not wish to go to sea with him… Well, what use to a pirate is a son who cannot sail?”
“That’s dreadful,” Elizabeth said softly, her eyes pretty in the low light, her face full of concern. “I had no idea.”
“Teague does not talk of me,” Enri said, surprised by the degree of hurt a known truth could still impart.
Elizabeth was silent, but when she spoke she did not lie. “No, he doesn’t speak of you. But he doesn’t speak of Jack either. When he saw him today, they’d not met since… Since we were all here, eleven years ago.”
“And for that, I fear, my father blames me.”
“A bad influence,” he said, smilingly.
“I find that hard to believe.”
Enri laughed at the compliment. “Well, do you wish to hear the story? You may change your mind, Elizabeth.”
“You know I want to hear it.” She met his smile with her own, somewhat self-conscious, as though her answer revealed more than it should.
Enri leaned back in his chair, studying her carefully. Beautiful – past the first flush of youth now, and strong-featured. Formidable too, her eyes were intelligent and warm, tinged with a spark of defiance; no wonder Jack had lost himself in her. Picking up a segment of fruit, Enri said, “First, you must understand that Teague was not a kindly father. He loved Jack – or Jackie, as he called him – but he brooked no slack in his crew. No impudence. And Jack was nothing if not an impudent boy.”
“That, I can imagine.”
“When they came to my village that summer, after some months at sea, Jack was full of rebellion, a barrel of gunpowder awaiting the spark. His feet hit the shore and he ran, wild and free. Disappeared for days into the forest until hunger drew him back to the village.” He smiled. “No one had taught him to hunt. I thought it strange, at the time, that he could not feed himself among so much plenty. But, then, what did I know of the sea?”
Elizabeth uncorked a bottle and took a drink, then offered it to Enri. “Was Teague worried?”
“Not that he showed, but when Jack returned he took a switch to his back until his skin was raw. Had my mother not intervened …” He shrugged, watching the look of horror cross Elizabeth’s face. “He bears scars to this day.”
“Teague has never touched Liam.” Her voice was low, angry. “I had not imagined…”
“He was a young man then, full of anger. Now he is old, and full of regrets.” Enri took the bottle and swallowed a mouthful of rum, wincing as it burned. “He lost his son, that day. I saw it in Jack’s eyes, the look of contempt he gave our father as he walked away from him... He felt betrayed, I think, that a man who professed to love him could hurt him so.”
Enri had not used the word lightly, though he almost regretted his choice when he saw the pinched, uncomfortable look on Elizabeth’s face. She felt it, then. He’d not known, from Jack’s dreams, if she cared a wit for the consequences of her betrayal. The fact that she did warmed him to her further; she was not so unfeeling as Jack believed. Quite the opposite, perhaps. After a pause to lick the juice from his fingers Enri continued the story. “We spent that summer together, he and I. We spent days on end in the forest; I taught Jack to hunt, and he asked a thousand questions about my people. We’re a quiet, peaceful people, Elizabeth, with no use for your weapons of violence. We commune with our dead, we lead a spiritual life, and, I believe, for Jack it was a kind of balm – he drank it in like he now drinks rum and when Teague declared his intention to put to sea, Jack refused to sail with him.”
Elizabeth sucked in a soft breath. “He refused?”
“It was an act of rebellion, of course,” Enri said with a smile. “He had saltwater in his veins, even then. But he told his father that he wished to stay in our village, that he would never be a pirate or return to Shipwreck Cove.”
“And Teague let him stay?”
Enri shook his head, the memory still dark even now. “He had the bosun drag him aboard, fighting like a wild cat the whole way. What happened after, I don’t know, and Jack has never spoken of it. But five years later he returned – I found him upon the shore, delirious and close to death. My mother took him to our healer and together we lead him from the land of the dead.” He pushed back the sleeve of his shirt to show three straight scars across the inside of his wrist. “We became natiao – brothers, in the world of spirits. And so we are still.”
“That is how you see his dreams,” Elizabeth guessed, reaching out to trace the scars; he wondered if it were him, or Jack, she felt beneath her soft fingers.
“He calls to me,” Enri said softly. “Cries out to be guided back from Coaybay, but I cannot help him. I do not know the way.” He closed his hand over hers, pressing her fingers against his wrist. “This time, you must bring him back, Elizabeth. Only you, who hold his heart, can save him.”
There were some advantages to being the former captain of the Flying Dutchman and husband to the Pirate King, one of which was that pirates tended to take your orders without question, even when those orders involved borrowing the aforementioned Pirate King’s ship without her permission.
The Gorrión stroked softly through the calm waters and shrouding fog. Her sails were furled, but Elizabeth had chosen her to traverse the often misty shores of Shipwreck Cove and her oarsmen were practiced and the sweeps long and sure. Will knew they stood a good chance of catching the Pearl and wondered, now, if that had been Elizabeth’s intention all along. Surely, she had known Jack would come after his ship and in this fog the Pearl had no advantage of speed. An unworthy and ungenerous part of his mind speculated about her motives for luring Jack out to sea, but had she wished to sail with Jack Sparrow she’d had a decade in which to do so and he couldn’t find out that she had even seen the man in all that time. And yet… Will was no fool, he knew there had always been a connection between them, unspoken as it was. And if it had been enough to keep them apart for so long, then it was no trifling fancy, no summer infatuation. It was something of weight and endurance.
He pushed his hand through his hair and glanced at Jack who stood at the ship’s rail, eyes closed as if seeking the scant breeze generated by their passing. Will considered raising the subject with him, having an honest discussion, but doubted he’d get much sense from him; the man had been behaving more bizarrely than usual since they’d boarded the Gorrión. He’d made no attempt to take command of the ship, for a start, though his eyes had gleamed with a strange heat as he’d run a sensual hand over the carved wood of the rail. “Caída del Gorrión,” he’d muttered softly, like a caress. “There’s providence in that, eh, William?”
Will had made no answer and Jack hadn’t seemed to expect one as he’d made his way slowly to the prow, his fingers brushing mast and rigging, everything within reach, as he past. The possessive touch of a lover, Will realised suddenly, his heart clenching oddly at the thought of those tar-black fingers tracing Elizabeth’s creamy flesh instead of her ship.
“She’s not far, now,” Jack said suddenly, his eyes still closed, face still lifted to the scarce breeze. “Can feel her in the swell.”
Will took a breath, steadying himself. He could feel it too – a decade at sea had honed his skills as sharp as any lifelong sailor, and sharper than most. “Off our port bow,” he agreed. “You’re not going to take her by force, I hope.”
A devilish smile curved one corner of Jack’s mouth. “The Pearl’s something of a lady, mate, and in my considerable and varied experience I’ve found that most ladies prefer to be wooed rather than taken, as it were.”
Jack opened his eyes and slid him a sly look. “Pretty words, whispered nothings – a kiss. My soul, I do swear, for a kiss…”
“I thought we were talking about your ship?”
“We are. Were.” His gaze darted away, quick as some fey creature of the night. “The Pearl and her crew. Can’t have a ship without a crew, lousy dogs though they be.”
“So you plan to slip aboard and woo the crew?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time, mate.”
“What’s it like?” he said abruptly, dark eyes fixed, now, on the mist as though he could see through it to the distant horizon. “Where you take them, what’s it like there?”
Will was silent, watching the play of emotions over Jack’s exposed features, and felt a deep unease, a return of the sensation of lingering decay. “You mean the dead.”
“Aye. The place where you take them… Is there water? A whisper of air?”
“I saw only the shore,” Will said softly, not taking his eyes from his friend’s face. “There were others there though, waiting to greet them. Family, perhaps. It was difficult to see clearly. Peaceful, though, for most.”
Jack’s face grew taut, colourless in the grey light. “And the Locker?”
“Empty, now.” Will came to stand at his side, resting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I left no soul behind, I swear it.”
Jack turned and for a terrifying moment Will didn’t recognise him; all he saw was black eternity in the man’s eldritch eyes. Death itself. “Are you sure?” Jack said in a voice like the grave. “Are you sure, Will Turner?”
Startled, he pulled back. “What…?”
“You said— What did you say?”
Jack blinked. “I said it wouldn’t be the first time I’d wooed the crew, mate, or that they’d wooed me. But, in this instance, I think I’ll be doing said wooing with a cocked pistol, savvy?”
There was a brightness in his eyes, the glitter of fire in the dark, and Will felt a sudden cold terror. Was it madness he saw there, or death? Dry mouthed, all he said was, “You’ll not threaten Elizabeth.”
“No,” Jack agreed with a shark’s smile. “Not her.” His gaze slid back out into the mist. “Dusk, in an hour. Then we’ll end this.”
Will shivered in the dank air. He could feel death’s bitter presence all around them and Jack’s eerie behaviour reeked of disaster, like the mournful toll of funeral bells after a storm.
Doom, doom, doom…
Continued in Chapter Four…