Captain Elizabeth Swann stood at the helm as the Pearl weighed anchor off the coast of Borikén. Down by the portside rail she saw Enri gazing at the shore as if he could will himself there sooner simply by wishing it so, and she smiled at the sight. It had been a long time since she had yearned for anything so strongly, least of all home. In truth, she hardly knew where home was anymore – Shipwreck Cove? The Gorrión? She caressed the smooth wood of the Pearl’s wheel and realised Jack’s ship was as close to home as anywhere else. More so, perhaps, when she remembered waking in his arms that morning…
The memory drew her eyes to him, where he sat on the quarterdeck steps, watching the crew reef the sails and ready the longboats. He’d taken to wearing naught but his breeches and a shirt, as if even his coat and boots were too much the captain he had once been. It pained her to see and she realised that what she really yearned for was the return of Captain Jack Sparrow, dazzling as the summer sun upon the waves.
“And so Jack will be restored,” a quiet voice said at her side, “and you will return the Pearl. What then?”
She turned to see Will watching her with careful eyes, and her heart ached with the pain she knew she was causing him. “I don’t know,” was her honest answer. “I’ll return to the Cove, to my duties…”
Will said nothing, only looked out toward the verdant land before them. After a time he spoke. “We would not be known here, Elizabeth. If we chose, we could find refuge here – a life for us, and Liam.” He sounded wistful, as if he hardly believed his own words. “We could be happy here.”
“Doing what?” she asked. “I’m not made for baking bread and raising children, you know I’m not. Are you made for tilling the land?”
He cast her a sideways look. “Perhaps I am. I long for solid ground beneath my feet, Elizabeth. It’s been eleven years. I yearn for it.”
“I know.” She sighed and ran her fingers over the ship’s wheel. “I understand…”
“I don’t think you do,” Will said softly. “You don’t hear the call of the land, Elizabeth. You hear only the call of the sea.”
And oh how it called… All her life she’d heard it: in the distant hiss of surf on sand, or in the crash of storm-tossed waves, or in the clatter of the ship’s rigging in the harbour. “You would have us live here?” she asked in a tense voice that hardly sounded like her own.
“Shipwreck Cove is a bleak place,” Will said quietly. “Though I think you do not see it.”
“Perhaps. But it was the only home I had when I was left so alone. I’ve grown accustomed to it.”
Will was silent a moment. “You know I had no choice, Elizabeth. Do not blame me for that.”
“I don’t.” Jaw locked in rising irritation, she said, “You were not the only one who left me that day, Will. I found myself utterly alone in the world, and made of it what I could. Shipwreck Cove is not so bleak a place as you think.” With a sigh, and a deliberate attempt to control her irritation, she said, “Let’s go ashore. It will do you good to feel the ground beneath your feet.”
He smiled then, the first smile she’d seen in weeks. “Perhaps it will do you good too,” he said, with a look of tentative hope. “I’m not the only one who’s been too long at sea.”
Her answering smile, however, faded as she turned toward the steps and found Jack watching her with a jumbled look in his eyes. But before she could say anything he was on his feet and away across the deck. With Will at her shoulder she could only watch him go, sickeningly sure that he had heard her and thought that she blamed him for leaving her friendless on the shores of his father’s city.
She chewed on her lip and thought that, perhaps, she did.
Enriquillo Barahona’s village nestled on the edge of thick, dark forest. Several large, round buildings thatched with woven straw and palm leaves clustered around an oval plaza, in which women worked and children played. No more than a ten minute walk from the softly sloping beach, Elizabeth could still see the Pearl peeping through the buildings and took some comfort in that as they were enveloped in a crowd of strange, ebullient people chattering in a language Elizabeth couldn’t understand.
She watched with a smile as a young woman flew into Enri’s arms, preceded by a gaggle of excited children all talking at once. They were followed by another woman, frail and old and for whom the crowd parted like soft butter. Her eyes twinkled, though, as she placed a welcoming hand on Enri’s arm, and then turned to regard Jack.
He’d held back, avoiding the enthusiastic welcome. The sash he’d taken to wearing around his head was now tied about his waist, and he peered from behind his hair as though he were attempting to hide from these people. If that had been the intention he was unsuccessful; Elizabeth doubted it would be possible for anyone to hide from the woman who now stood watching him.
When she spoke it was in her language, and Jack answered softly in the same. Then her hand touched his arm and she said something very earnestly, squeezing his wrist in her bony fingers until Jack nodded. Not releasing him, she turned to Elizabeth, a glittering smile in her jet-black eyes.
“You are welcome,” she said, her English good but heavily accented. “Never thought to see a Pirate King in this lifetime.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Neither did I.”
The woman was silent a moment, then grinned a sparsely toothed grin. “I am Yuisa, caciques of this village. Enri is my eldest son.” Her hand tightened on Jack’s arm, drawing him closer. “Jack Sparrow, then, is half my son, no?” And the glitter in her eyes was suddenly diamond hard. “You will help him.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Elizabeth said carefully, glancing at Jack. He only held her gaze a moment before turning away. “I brought him here,” she added, lifting her chin and refusing to be intimidated. “To help him.”
Yuisa nodded in approval. “Then you may be worthy. Which one is your other I’ro?”
Elizabeth blinked. “I’m sorry, my other what?”
“Will,” Jack said quickly. “She means Will.”
Will was, currently, politely shaking hands with Enri’s wife – wives? – who were giggling at the strangeness of the gesture. Elizabeth smiled as she pointed him out to Yuisa.
The woman’s eyes narrowed in surprise and she cast a sharp look at Jack. “Jibaro?”
A ghost of a smile touched his lips. “Well, he’s no pirate, that’s for sure.”
Elizabeth glanced from one to the other, irritated by her lack of understanding. In the end, Yuisa took pity. “I say only that your husband is a man of the forest,” she explained. “I had expected a man of the sea, like Teague’s boy.”
“Not his boy,” Jack pointed out. “Not for a long time.”
Yuisa studied his face, a serious frown creasing her already wrinkled brow. “No, no longer anyone’s boy, hmm? Though still more of a boy than is right.” She pinched his youthful cheek. “Unnatural, Opi'a.”
He pushed her hand away, hissed something in the Tiano language, and stalked back toward the beach.
Thoughtfully, Yuisa watched him go. “A ghost, indeed,” she said softly. “A lost spirit. We must perform the rite tonight, he is in much distress.”
Elizabeth could only nod her agreement. “What does it involve, this rite? Enri was quite vague.”
“Pain. Terror. Death and betrayal.” Yuisa smiled darkly. “Are you willing to die for him tonight, Elizabeth Swann?”
Her skin prickled with fear, but nonetheless she nodded. “I have always been willing to die for him.” And she only understood the truth of those words as they left her lips; she would rather die than live without him in the world. It had always been so.
Yuisa nodded. “Then there is hope,” she said, turning and walking away.
The day passed in a flurry of activity, as if a silent command had been given. A large pyre was built in the centre of the plaza, bread was baked and meat prepared. But Elizabeth was told she must eat nothing, and drink only water – apparently fasting was imperative. Enri had met her questioning look with a silent nod so Elizabeth didn’t protest, although she couldn’t forget Jack’s disparagement of the whole business.
You’ve seen Teague chase the dragon, I suppose? ’Tis the same, more or less, with the Taínos. No magic there but what your mind invents, eh?
If he was right, and none of this could restore his mind, what then? What should the Pirate King do with such a broken Pirate Lord? She had no answer, and didn't wish to find one; she could not - would not - live with herself, knowing she had destroyed Jack Sparrow. That would not be her legacy to the world.
She had hoped to speak to Jack during the course of the day, but she could see no sign of him. Enri had simply shrugged and glanced toward the forest. "If needs be," he'd said calmly, "I will track him down. For now, let us hope he can trust us enough to return of his own accord."
Elizabeth was less sanguine; Enri didn't know about the conversation Jack had overheard aboard the Pearl, nor seen the bruised look in his eyes. She wished she could talk to him before this began, to reassure him, but though she wandered in and out of all the bohios she could find no trace of him. If Jack Sparrow did not wish to be found...
By sunset she was feeling light-headed with hunger, so perched herself at the edge of the plaza to watch curiously as a large stone was placed at its head. Upon the stone was carved a stylised image of a dog, and from the reverence displayed by the villagers she assumed it must be a sacred object to the Taínos.
"Opiyelguabirán," Enri said, dropping to the ground at her side. He seemed more relaxed now he was back on land; a tension she'd assumed to be part of him had lifted, his smile was broader, and his spirit lighter. She wondered if she'd ever again see Jack so animated.
"I'm afraid you'll have to translate," she said with a small smile. "Opiy...?"
"Opiyelguabirán." Enri nodded toward the stone. "He is the cemi who watches over the dead - one of our gods."
"And he is to be part of the rite?" She hoped she didn't sound too sceptical, but Jack's warning was still loud in her memory.
"Just the beginning," Enri assured her. "Out here there will be an offering to the cemi, and then an areitos - a festival - celebrating tales of the ancestors. Jack's journey back from Coaybay will take place in there."
He indicated one of the circular bohios, in and out of which there seemed to be a constant stream of people. Yuisa stood at the doorway, though, her sharp eyes meeting Elizabeth’s curious glance as if measuring her doubt. Elizabeth looked away quickly. “Jack believes it is no different to chasing the dragon,” she told Enri. “Is he right?”
Typically, Enri just smiled. “Similar, perhaps. But the dragon is never caught, is he? Cohoba starts the journey, yes, but the bohique - in this case, my mother - will ensure that the journey is complete. And Jack will be watched over by Maketaori Guayaba, god of the underworld. This is not the hedonistic pleasure of the opium den, Elizabeth. You too must have faith."
"I do not worship your gods," she said quietly, "but I've seen enough of magic to dismiss nothing. I'm not sure the same will be true of Jack, however, for all the strangeness he has endured."
Enri said nothing, distracted by a man stepping into the plaza, a flaming torch held high. He shouted a word that Elizabeth guessed meant 'Let us start' before thrusting the brand into the dry wood and setting the kindling alight.
"So it begins," Enri said softly, rising to his feet and placing a hand on Elizabeth's shoulder. "Jack stands upon the beach, determined to play no part in his salvation. His agreement with you, he says, was only to come to the village and no more. Perhaps you can persuade him better than I?"
She stared up at him. "What? He's refusing...?"
"He is afraid," Enri said quietly. "He does not wish to endure what he must endure to be free. Your..." He hesitated awkwardly. "Your bond with him, perhaps, will be enough to persuade him." And with that he strode away, leaving Elizabeth alone with her thoughts at the dark edges of the firelight.
By the time she reached the beach the sun had disappeared and a fat moon hung low in the sky. Its soft light turned the golden sand silver and shone bright against Jack's shirt, fluttering in the onshore breeze as he stood gazing out toward the blinking lamps of the Pearl. His face was sallow, though, against his dark hair and the dark night - pale and unhappy.
Elizabeth paused, not sure how to approach him, not sure what to say. In the end she said nothing, for Jack spoke first.
"So it's you then, is it? Sent to lure me back, as it were, to me terrible fate."
"This is why we came here," she said, walking over the soft sand toward him.
“’Tis not why I came here. I came here because you stole my bloody ship.”
She smiled slightly. “Jack…”
Silence fell as she reached his side in the surf. Like Jack, her feet were bare and the water was cool as it lapped over her toes. It called to her, though – even the quiet hiss of waves on sand drew her eye to the starry horizon. That Will could not feel this…
“I wasn’t myself, love,” Jack said suddenly, his voice rolling like the waves. “After the battle and all? ’Twas hard to know which way was up. Voices, madness. Hardly knew who I was when I left you there. And we’d said our goodbyes, I thought, aboard the Pearl.”
“We had,” she agreed, the memory painted in sharp relief and fresh pain. “I didn’t blame you for leaving, Jack. But I did miss you, and wished you’d not so easily forgotten—”
“Forgotten?” He turned on her in astonishment, his eyes black as pitch, reflecting nothing.
She felt herself flush and hoped it would be washed out by the moonlight. “So I thought. I had no idea that you—”
“You thought I could forget my death so soon? And your hand in it?” He ran fingers through his tangled hair in disbelief. “Did it matter so little to you, then, that you could believe it forgotten?”
“Of course not, but you were alive again, and I thought—”
“Death was not my greatest injury that day, Elizabeth. I carried Barbossa’s bullet for ten years after his betrayal, did you imagine I’d do less for you?”
“You wished…?” She took a step back, shocked. “You wished me dead, then?”
He glowered and looked back out toward the Pearl. “Would have been easier if I had. But ’tis not a bullet I carry for you, Elizabeth.”
Her heart fluttered, her breath catching in a soft gasp. He turned sharply at the sound, stopping when his gaze met hers. Astonishment flickered in his eyes, then disbelief, and then an aching realisation as, for the first time, he saw the truth laid bare in her eyes – bruised and battered, but the truth nonetheless. She lifted hesitant fingers to his cheek and his eyes closed, lips slightly parted. “Elizabeth…?”
“I didn’t know,” she whispered, tracing the edge of his mouth until his lips closed around her fingertip and she felt his heat to her very core, dizzy with the need of him. “If I’d known before I married Will…”
He seized her hand and pressed his lips to the palm, to her fingers. “No more, Lizzie. Go. Now. Back to the village, before I—”
“Not without you.”
Dropping her hand he spun away, pushing his fingers into his hair. “I’ve not the strength for this, Lizzie. I’m not a good man, I’m a pirate after all. I’ll take what I can and…and the third mistake was the worst. Bloody fool to imagine you could— Can’t bear to think on it now, the silent lies you told with those pretty— No. Stop it. Stop it!”
The agony in his voice was heart wrenching, but drawing a shaky breath she steadied herself; if ever he had needed her, it was now. With a strong hand she reached out and seized his shoulder, rousing him from the waking dream. He started back, but she held him firm, anchoring him. “Let’s end this,” she said softly. “The Kraken has been dead ten years, Jack. It’s time to step out from its shadow and see what the morning light reveals.”
His expression was bleak, tormented. “Do you think, then, that the world will be any different when the sun rises?”
“At the very least you will be free of this madness, Jack Sparrow. Come…” She held out her hand and for a moment he just stared at it. Then, carefully, he took it, curling his fingers around hers and letting her lead him back to the village and into the nightmare that was destroying him.
As soon as they entered the village, it began. Jack was lead away by Enri, speaking softly in the Taíno language. Elizabeth tried to keep her eye on them as long as possible, but they were soon lost in the excited crowd that had gathered in the plaza; someone was singing, a haunting ululating sound, while others accompanied with maraca, drums and exotic instruments Elizabeth couldn’t identify. Her heart was racing already, the noise intoxicating, and her body still aroused by the longing touch of Jack’s lips...
“Come, child.” Elizabeth jumped, turning to see Yuisa watching her with bright, perceptive eyes. “It is time.”
Nodding, Elizabeth followed the woman through the crowd and into one of the circular bohios. Within were a number of young women – girls, really – wearing little more than a short cloth about their waists. Their bodies were swirled with black paint, and golden jewellery glinted about their wrists and necks. One stepped forward, pretty with her straight black hair hanging almost to her waist, and cast an uncertain glance at Yuisa. The old woman muttered something in her own language, then turned to Elizabeth. “They will prepare you for the rite. You must be bathed.” She cast a disapproving look at Elizabeth’s coat and britches. “And appropriately dressed.”
Warily, Elizabeth pulled her coat a little tighter. “If you expect me to dress in no more than a napkin, then I’m afraid I’ll have to refuse…”
“Is your body so ugly, then, that you must hide it from the world?” Yuisa tutted.
Looking over at the rounded curves of the young women, their smooth skin the colour of rum in sunlight, Elizabeth thought regretfully of her spare, angular frame, ghost-white where her skin never saw the sun. “I mean no disrespect,” she said, “but I cannot dress like that in front of— In front of strangers.”
Yuisa grinned suddenly, chuckling. “Strangers, is it? I think it’s not the eyes of strangers that concerns you, hmm?” She patted Elizabeth’s arm, still chuckling, and said something to the girls. “Let them bathe you,” she said then, walking back to the door. “And do not dawdle about it, there is much to do yet.”
Left with little option, Elizabeth found herself taken by the arm and drawn to the centre of the room. Her clothes were removed and she tried to ignore the looks the girls shot each other at the sight of her strange body; pale breasts and stomach contrasted ridiculously against her nut-brown arms and face, a thin scar ran across her shoulder from an encounter with a Spaniard who had not understood ‘no’ in any language, and, of course, there was the small tattoo on her hip; a bird, of indeterminate variety, in flight. She’d always told Will it was a swan…
She kept an eye on her clothes though, made it clear they were not to be taken away. Once she had been bathed and her hair combed out, one of the girls offered her something that looked like a skirt; a very short one. More than the loin cloths they were wearing, this had the look of ceremony about it and was somewhat more substantial. Reluctantly, she nodded, although insisting that they also return her shirt which she pulled over her head. The resulting effect made the girls giggle, but Elizabeth was unmoved. Nothing would make her walk out of this hut bare-breasted!
Her patience at an end, she headed for the door, forcing her erstwhile handmaids to catch up. Outside, the festival was at fever-pitch, wild with dancing and singing and the incessant beat of soft drums. Unsure where to go, Elizabeth found her hand taken by one of the girls and followed her through the crowd to the bohio she now realised belonged to Yuisa. At the door, the girl stopped and melted back into the crowd, leaving Elizabeth alone. And afraid, suddenly, of what she might find within.
She could just make out a soft, chanting voice coming through the cloth that hung over the door, and when she moved it aside she could see the unsteady light of a fire casting unruly shadows against the walls; it had the feel of magic about it, the weird power of Tia Dalma’s home. Elizabeth’s skin prickled, her heart raced, and for a moment she wanted to flee. Glancing behind her she saw the leaping flames in the plaza making silhouettes of the villagers’ wild dancing, and in the shadows, half lit by the fire, she saw Will. Her breath caught, guilt twisting in the pit of her stomach; he stood silently, watching her, as if somehow he knew what had passed between herself and Jack upon the beach.
After a silent eternity he lifted his hand in greeting – or farewell – and she did the same. And then he was gone, lost in the wild night, as she turned and resolutely pushed her way into the softly lit bohio.
The first thing she noticed was the air, thick with incense and smoke. The second thing was a heat like a blacksmith’s forge; sweat beaded on her face as she cautiously stepped forward.
Three or four fires burned on the dirt floor, placed around the edges of the large circular room. In the centre stood a carving that she guessed must represent the Taíno god of the underworld, and before it was a small, scooped-out table filled with a soft powder. It looked, to her Christian eye, like an altar.
Yuisa crouched before it, crooning in the Taíno language, lost in incantation. And behind her, upon woven rugs spread out before the altar, sat Jack; cross-legged and eyes closed, he listened in stillness to Yuisa sing. He must have been there some time, Elizabeth thought, for the firelight glistened against a sheen of sweat on his bare chest, and she suddenly felt ridiculous clinging to her shirt like a damp rag. Not ridiculous enough to remove it, however…
Unsure what to do next, unsure that they even knew she was there, the temptation to leave them undisturbed was powerful. She’d even taken a step backward before a strong hand touched her shoulder. “I am glad you are here.”
It was Enri.
At the sound of his voice, Jack opened his eyes. And for the briefest instant Elizabeth thought she saw a flicker of amusement as he took in her strange apparel; his eyes lingered, though, on her exposed legs and she resisted the urge to tug down her shockingly short skirt.
“Sit,” Enri said, coaxing her gently forward. “You must sit opposite Jack, before the cemi.”
Cautiously, aware of Jack’s eyes on her the whole time, she sat as he sat upon the rugs, their knees almost touching. His hair was sweat-damp, curling around his ears, and the powder burns on his chest stood out starkly in the firelight; Elizabeth resisted the urge to touch them, to reassure herself that he was whole. For Jack’s part, his eyes seemed to linger on her shirt and she realised that, sweating as she now was, it probably revealed as much as it hid. And she flushed with a different heat when she realised that she was far from offended by his brazen exploration of her body – that she welcomed it. Wanted it, desired—
Yuisa stopped singing and silence fell. Outside, the drums had stopped.
“It is time,” the old woman said, and Elizabeth saw a flash of fear in Jack’s eyes. Her heart raced, breath quickening.
From the altar, Yuisa picked up two ornately carved pipes and handed one to each of them. “For the cohoba,” she said. Confused, Elizabeth looked over at Jack. He was staring at the pipe as though it were the Devil himself. “You cannot defeat a demon without confronting it, Jack Sparrow,” Yuisa said quietly. “I will watch over you, this woman will be with you.”
He looked at Elizabeth then, a question in his eyes, and she nodded. “I’ll not leave you, I swear it.”
His gaze shifted back to the pipe and for a moment he was very still, then, swift as a cat, he moved. He placed the pipe to his nose, leaned over the altar and sniffed up the snuff, dropped the pipe and threw back his head breathing fast for a long moment. Then he let out a deep, controlled breath, dropped his head and looked at Elizabeth, demanding she follow suit.
“What will it do?” she asked as she placed the pipe to her nose.
“Help you dream,” Yuisa said. “It is all a dream.”
Closing her eyes, Elizabeth sniffed and felt her nose and then her head explode with a flash-fire of sensation. The pipe dropped from numb fingers and she found herself staring at the ceiling as the intense burn quickly faded. And then…nothing. She looked curiously at Jack.
“Takes a few minutes,” he said with a faint smile.
Yumis reached between them, her bony arms elbowing Elizabeth as she held out a small pot, full of something black and sticky. “Jagua,” she said, placing it on the floor between them, “to bond you in the dream world.”
Confused, Elizabeth looked again at Jack.
“Like this,” he said, dipping a finger into the sticky black liquid. Carefully, he drew his finger slowly across one of her cheeks, then the other; her body responded to his touch like tinder to a flame, and she saw the same heat dancing in his eyes.
Delicately, she dipped her own finger into the paint and reached out to mirror his gesture, placing a black streak along both cheeks. Another flicker of a smile and he dipped his finger in again, this time touching the base of her throat and drawing a line down between her breasts until he reached the low neck of her shirt and could go no further. Their eyes locked as she copied him, tracing a line down the hard muscles of his chest, his gaze burning; desire and fear at war.
Next, he took her hand and turned it over, tracing a sinuous black line along the sensitive length of her inner arm, circling seductively about her wrist until he reached the spot on her palm where he had so recently kissed her. Elizabeth’s head spun with the intensity of it, her heart racing so fast she thought it might burst; it was difficult to breathe as she dipped her finger into the jagua and painted a line along the scarred surface of his wrist. Her fingers laced through his, then, paint-black and fascinating as they entwined like lovers and—
“Did we kill it?” Marty, desperate and afraid.
Elizabeth gasped as Jack’s fingers slid from hers and he toppled backwards onto the rugs. “Jack…?”
“He dreams,” Yuisa said softly. “He—”
“No, we just made it angry. We’re not out of this yet. Captain, orders?” Gibbs is afraid, but determined; his faith in his captain stirs her heart.
But Jack looks grim, no trace of humour or bravado in his face. “Abandon ship. Into the longboat.”
Even though she remembers the moment, it still has the power to shock her.
“Jack!” Gibbs gasps. “The Pearl…”
There’s a silence, poignant and true. “She’s only a ship, mate.”
And then she sees herself as she was then, an angry, frightened child, confused by desires she couldn’t name, by conflicting loyalties, and by a bitter sense of having been taken for a fool. “He’s right,” she hears herself say. “We have to head for land.”
And she sees, now, how he watches her with admiration and sadness. With love – not difficult to recognise now she knows what to look for, though she was blind to it then – and it breaks her heart. Somewhere, she can feel tears on her cheeks.
“’Tis a lot of open water, sir,” Pintel points out, the land a mere smudge upon the horizon.
“That’s a lot o’ water,” Ragetti agrees, and she realises how much she’s missed them. How much she’s missed them all.
“We have to try.” Oh, and it’s Will, looking less haunted but in every other way no different. Her Will, brave and innocent, unaware of the treacherous passions brewing in her heart. “We can get away as it takes down the Pearl.”
There’s a pause, a moment in which the horrible truth sinks in for them all. And then Gibbs says, “Abandon ship! Abandon ship, or abandon hope.”
And there’s a rush of movement, of people running and shouting, and amid it all she can see how still Jack becomes, how he turns away and runs his hands over the lines of his ship. She can see how he loves her, how he cannot bear to part…
“Thank you, Jack.” Her voice is sweet as decay, treacherous as a honey trap.
She wants to yell, to stop herself. She tries, but she has no voice here, she can only watch the terrible tragedy unfold; she can only weep for him, for what she is about to do to him.
“We’re not free yet, love,” he says, more seriously than she’d ever seen him before. And she prowls closer, like a hunter – only worse, for her victim has no hope of escape. “You came back.” She sees that she smiled as she said those words, that there was admiration in her eyes. Gratitude. In his, there is surprise – and pleasure. At the end of everything, her words bring him joy. “I always knew you were a good man.”
And then she kisses him, with all the passion that still beats in her heart - with a burning desire that consumes her still – and, oh, how he kisses her in return. Seeing it now, spread before her, she sees how quiet he is, how passive. No pirate, Jack Sparrow. No taking what he can and giving nothing back, he responds to her with a lover’s honesty – with gentleness and gratitude.
Somewhere, she is crying now, raging to push her girlish self out of the way and change everything. But it’s too late, she hears the cold jingle of the shackle closing about his wrist, she sees him pull back in sudden, devastating understanding.
“It’s after you, not the ship,” she hears herself say, angry and bitter. “It’s not us. This is the only way, don’t you see?” And he watches her then with such a look in his eye – as if he’d known all along that it could not be true and despised himself for believing it anyway. “I’m not sorry,” she tells him then, bitter words breathed on the cusp of a kiss. And in that moment she hates herself, could willingly drive a blade through her childish, selfish heart.
“Pirate,” Jack murmurs, offering it like forgiveness. His last word to her in the living world.
And then she sees herself turn and run, looking back only once at the scene of her despicable crime. He’s watching her with fear and desire, always those two – like a man bewitched by a monster. And he stands there still, long after she has gone, until the ship judders and he startles back to himself.
Elizabeth feels her racing heart clench; this she has not witnessed except in his madness. In life, she was safe aboard the longboat.
Jack turns, pulls at the chains, his foot braced against the mast. “Bugger. Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger…” And she is reminded painfully of him standing chained in the Great Hall of Shipwreck Cove, tugging at bloodied wrists; she thinks she might die with the guilt of it.
Suddenly something catches his eye as the deck begins to cant. He draws his sword, and with its tip hooks a lantern that lies on the devastated deck. Smashing it, he uses the oil to lubricate his wrist and begins to force his hand through the cuff; even in her horror, Elizabeth is proud of his ingenuity. Of his indomitable spirit. And then her heart crumbles anew as she remembers that, in the end, she had destroyed even that.
“Come on… Come on…” Jack pleads as his hand squeezes painfully through the cuff until, yes, he is free!
But too late. Oh, God, he is too late. Behind him she sees the Kraken rise; more monstrous than she had ever imagined, its mouth is like the pit of hell, lined with rows and rows of teeth the length of a sword. Foul, foul creature, come for one man, left alone to die.
She begs for it to stop now, for the vision to end, for her eyes to close. In the distance she can hear herself sobbing, calling out for an end, but the dream is relentless.
Jack stops, his minute victory over. He’s very still for a moment, then turns to face his nemesis. There is an instant of absolute silence. Of utter stillness. And then the monster roars like a demon, its foul breath blasting Jack where he stands, coating him in stuff so revolting she can feel herself retch.
“Not so bad,” Jack says, with all the lie of casual aplomb. And then he spots something upon the deck and bends to retrieve it; his hat, of course, and a gesture of defiance in the face of calamity. With it firm upon his head, his expression shifts. His sword is drawn, his face fierce at the end.
She watches in despair as the creature rears up and Jack lifts his sword – a frail weapon against so much death. “Hello beastie,” he snarls, and with a ferocious cry he charges toward his end. Toward his death.
It is the bravest thing Elizabeth has ever seen, and when the Kraken’s maw closes over him she weeps in the darkness, weeps and rails against herself and her crimes and—
“Elizabeth?” Yuisa’s face appeared above her, distorted somehow.
She blinked, trying to clear her vision. Her throat was raw with the echoes of her screams. “I saw him…”
“What did you see?” Enri was at her side, helping her to sit, and it was only then that she realised she’d been lying down.
Her hands shook as she wiped at her face; tears, sweat, and jagua mixing in a grey mess. “I saw him die,” she whispered. “I saw that day, upon the Pearl, I saw it all as though I was standing right there.”
Enri glanced past her to Yuisa. “As though you stood there, watching but not part of it?”
She nodded. “A vision. A dream.”
“You did not speak to him?” Yuisa said, jutting her head toward Jack. He lay upon his back, lips moving as though silently talking, still lost in the dream.
“No. I tried, but it was as if watching a memory.”
“Then you must go deeper,” Yuisa said, from her pocket producing the same ornate pipe.
“You must speak with him, before you can guide him back,” Enri explained. “Become part of the memory, Elizabeth.”
She took the pipe and stared at it; still raw with horror, the thought of witnessing his death again was more than she could bear. And yet he had relived it day after day, night after night, for years. If she could free him from that torment…? “What must I do?”
From the corner of her eye, she saw a glint of silver; Enri held a knife. “More cohoba,” he said.
After the burn had faded and the pipe had fallen again from her fingers, Enri held out his hand. “See?” he said, showing her the three even cuts along his wrist. Then he lifted Jack’s hand, where he lay sprawled on his back, and pulled aside the leather straps and scraps of lace he wore about his wrist. There, beneath them, were three matching scars. “He is far away, again. You need a deeper bond.”
Elizabeth nodded, blinking as the fires about the edges of the room began to twirl and distort. “Do it now,” she whispered, holding out her hand.
She sat next to Jack and sucked breath through her teeth at the pain of the three quick, shallow slices over her wrist, then watched in strange fascination as the blood welled and ran down her hand.
“Like this,” Enri said, taking her arm and pressing it against the cuts on Jack’s wrist. Her fingers, of their own accord, threaded through his and she thought she could feel his pulse, the heat of his blood pumping into her. Her head felt dizzy and –
“Where’s Jack?” There was accusation in Will’s voice, as though he could see her betrayal written bright in her eyes. Could they all see it, she wondered, as she stepped into the rocking longboat?
“He elected to…” No, he didn’t. He didn’t elect to stay behind; those were the words of a child, but she was no longer that child. She shook her head, trying to clear it, trying to understand...
“Find him, Elizabeth,” a voice whispered, far away. “Bring him back…”
“Find a new path. Break the circle.”
A new path, an untrodden path. Yes… And suddenly she stood upon the deserted deck of the Pearl. The stench of gunpowder filled the air, and the ship creaked and groaned beneath her feet, damaged beyond repair. And there was Jack, as she’d seen him in her dream, tugging desperately at the shackles about his wrist. But this was no dream. She reached out and touched the ship’s rail; it was wet with sea spray and real, very real.
Break the circle…
She hurried across the deck, trying to ignore the way it juddered – trying to ignore what she knew that meant – and stopped no more than a foot from the mast. She drew in a deep breath and said, “Jack?”
He jumped, turning to stare at her in utter astonishment. “What—?”
“I came back,” she said, reaching for his shackled hand. “I couldn’t leave you.”
“You came back?” he repeated. “But… This isn’t how it happens.”
She smiled through sudden tears. “Of course it is, Jack. This is how it happens…” From her pocket she pulled keys to the shackles and in a moment he was free, rubbing slowly at his wrist. “I should never have left you, never have—”
“Don’t fret, love,” he said, suddenly gentle. “A captain goes down with his ship, eh? You didn’t condemn me to anything I hadn’t already intended. Peas in a pod, you and I. Different routes to the same end.” Beneath their feet, the deck shuddered and Jack glanced nervously over his shoulder. “I appreciate me freedom, love, but now ’tis time for you to go.”
She blinked at him. “Go?”
“’Tis not much of a heroic death, if the damsel the hero intends to die saving ends up alongside him in the belly of the beast, eh?” He smiled that disarmingly honest smile of his. “Now go, while there’s time, Elizabeth.”
“I don’t need saving, Jack, and I won’t leave you again.”
He frowned. “Now, look, I—”
She took his face in her hands and kissed him, hard, relishing the feel of his thick dreadlocked hair beneath her fingers. This was Jack Sparrow, hale and hearty, and kissing her with all the passion she remembered. A lover’s kiss; a farewell kiss.
And then the deck bucked again and he pushed her urgently back. “Lizzie, go, I’ll not see you—”
“I won’t leave you.” She flung her arms about his neck, holding him tight against her. “I love you,” she whispered into his ear. “Remember that, always.”
He shuddered, as if something deep inside had shifted profoundly, and clutched her close. “Dreaming then,” he breathed against her neck. “Must be dreaming…”
Eyes wide open, she held him tight. “This is no dream,” she said, watching the beast break the surface of the water. Its hellish mouth was no more than a few feet away, its stink intolerable, teeth terrifying. In her arms, Jack went still as death. “Don’t turn around,” she hissed in his ear, her hand reaching down to draw his sword.
“Don’t turn around, Jack.” She held him tight against her with one arm, the other lifting his sword in defiance of the beast, of Jones, and of death itself. “You will not have him!” she shouted. “Do you hear me? I am Elizabeth Swann, King of the Pirates, and you will not have him!”
And then doom fell. A crashing agony of stench and rending teeth, tearing her flesh until she screamed and screamed, but she would not let him go. Even as they cascaded into darkness she would not let him go…
Continued in Chapter Seven