Once Every Decade, a series of PotC vignettes by Tsunami Storm
-About nine months after the Maelstrom battle-
It was a dark and stormy night, and not just considering the weather, either.
The Empress was locked in a naval battle with a vessel belonging to some of the nastiest cutthroats on the seven seas, the vicious and unscrupulous East India Trading Company. The Empress was defending herself bravely against the opposing, supposed 'merchant' ship- aptly christened The Deception- and in fact had not yet fired a single shot from her cannons.
That is not to say that her adversary was showing her the same courtesy. Already, the Chinese junk's deck was littered with the splintered wood of her port and starboard rails, and some of her deck's surface was riddled with holes from cannonballs. Her crimson sails were more holey than some kinds of cheeses, and the state of her rigging left much to be desired. In fact, her crew was amazed that she was still fairly seaworthy.
The captain of The Deception had been Lord Cutler Beckett's second-in-command, a man of Scottish descent with a thick accent and an equally thick head of hair and beard as red as The Empress' sails. The man was rumoured to have lost his leg to a shark attack, and then he had hunted down that self same shark and ripped it apart with his bare hands. His swordsmanship skills were equally as deadly, and he would often boast of killing more than fifty men before he was struck once.
The Scotsman thumped across the gangplank to the beleaguered vessel, bellowing in his native brogue, "Who amongst ye bilge rats d'ye name as cap'n o' this wee dinghy?" He taunted, brandishing his blade at any of the Asian-looking crew-members that looked especially decorated. But the loyal crew of The Empress answered him not a word, not daring to even look at the Captain's Quarters where the Pirate King was currently- ahem- bedridden, shall we say. None of the male crew-members dared go into that room for fear of violating the privacy of the womenfolk or interrupting their important work.
"Och, Ah getche now. Yer cap'n be nothin' more'n a yella-bellied coward, an' holed hisself up in 'is cabin like a wee bairn, not man 'nuff teh come out an' face Cap'n Angus Redbeard! Well, we'll jus' see 'ow much a lily-livered dog 'e is, then Ah'll send 'im teh th' crushin' depths o' Davy Jones' Locker meself!" He howled with laughter as he strode across the deck to the Captain's Quarters. To his considerable surprise, the crew of The Empress crowded in front of him, their own blades drawn and leveled at his imposing form. Usually enemy crews would have all fled at the sight of him by now, too intimidated and looking to save their own skins.
Some distance away- unnoticed by either crew of the warring ships- another vessel suddenly broke the water's surface, though making nary a sound as it righted itself above the waves. It was a magnificent Dutch fluyt, her seaweed-covered sails rippling in the wind and the gaping maw of the figurehead looking as menacing as ever, a rare type of red seaweed dangling from its jaws like the remains of tattered flesh. Her young captain- immortal for the time being- stood on the bowsprit of the ship, one hand holding a rope that was part of the foremost sail and the other holding a spyglass up to his eye. When he spotted the warring vessels and the Chinese junk in distress, he gasped. He knew exactly whose ship that was, and also knew that her captain was in no condition to engage in battle at the moment. With a few short words of command to his crew, he used his ability as captain of The Flying Dutchman to teleport himself right to the deck of the familiar ship, right behind the crew of the East India Trading Company.
When Will appeared out of thin air, the crew of The Empress jumped slightly in surprise, but thankfully none of the other crew noticed the reaction. What they did notice was the sound of a blade being removed from its sheath with a swift, slightly scraping noise. The enemy knew well that sound, as well as the feel of cold steel against one's neck. And that is exactly what Captain Redbeard felt when he'd dared advance one more step toward the door to the Captain's Quarters.
"Not another inch, Redbeard." The new arrival growled dangerously, holding the tip of his sword to the man's throat at the jugular vein. One false move, and the Scotsman knew he could bleed out in minutes. "Lest you wish to repaint the deck of The Empress with your blood."
"Och, well, if 'taint th' lily-livered cap'n 'imself, finally gracin' us humble sea rats wit' 'is presence." Redbeard snarled, then erupted in gales of cruel laughter, but none of his crew joined in along with him. He turned his head slowly to face his newest adversary, and- to his surprise- the sword's pressure decreased slightly from his vital blood vessel as he pivoted. What met his eye was a surprising sight. The enemy captain was far younger than he'd expected, quite possibly in his early twenties- if that.
"Och, well, it seems t'day's surprises 'll nevar cease!" Redbeard howled with laughter again, but the sword-point never flinched from its position. "Wot's a bonnie wee bairn as yerself playactin' cap'n fer? A ship ain't no place fer a babe." He mocked, but the only reaction he got was a scowl. "Appearances can be deceiving." Will growled back.
"Can they now?" The Scot scoffed, drawing his own blade and levelling it at the new arrival. "I s'pose yeh'll be wantin' a Parley er summat other such pirate malarkey. Yeh cowards 're all th' same ter mine eye. All yellah, wee bairns that'd rather hide behind their mam's skirts than fight like a real man." He guffawed again, insulting not only his opponent but also every single one of his friends. Not to mention his beloved.
"Quite the opposite, actually." Will frowned, lowering his blade and crossing it with the Scot's. "We've passed the point of peaceful words. Now we shall let our blades do the talking. Shall we see whose is the better orator?" He challenged, twirling his sword around the other man's weapon as if goading him into an attack.
It worked. The short-tempered Company captain took the bait, and within seconds sparks were flying all over the deck of The Empress, released from the clashes of the two blades wielded by the rival captains.
Safely tucked away in the Captain's Quarters, the Pirate King and her newly appointed attendants were trying to keep as quiet and unnoticeable as possible, despite the gravity and importance of their task. It had been about eight months since Elizabeth had sent her joyous news to her husband- that they were expecting a child- and that had been about a month after the 'One Day' that Will could come ashore and be with his bride. Now the time had come for the child to be born, and- to Elizabeth's eyes- it couldn't have chosen a more dangerous arrival. As of this moment, The Empress and her stalwart crew had come under attack from an unknown vessel- Elizabeth didn't know who attacked, as she was hiding in her Quarters- but she could discern that the rival captain was of Scottish descent, judging by his thick accent.
As she strained to listen to the goings-on of the deck, the Pirate King barely bit back another scream of pain as the birthing process continued, and it was all she could do to try not to break her attendant's hand as she squeezed it reflexively.
"That it, milady." The midwife-attendant encouraged in broken English. It was not her native tongue, after all. "Jus' one more push good, maybe two. You have you baby no time."
"I just- wish it wasn't- so painful!" Elizabeth gasped out as she took several deep breaths, trying desperately to push when the midwife signaled. Surprisingly, now she could hear the clanging and clashing of swords on the deck, as if someone was battling out there.
"Now now, dear. You just relax. Nothing come in here and hurt, not while we here. We keep safe." One of the other attendants comforted.
"That's not what worries me." Elizabeth groaned as another contraction played havoc with her gut. "I'm more concerned about my crew. They're out there- probably fighting for their lives- and I'm stuck in here, not helping at all!"
"Nonsense!" The midwife countered, gripping Elizabeth's wrist. "You creating whole new person. You bringing next generation. You doing most important work of all."
The Pirate King smiled at the matron, grateful for the encouragement, but it was more like a grimace as she then gasped, "Aaagh, I can feel its head now!"
-Back to the battle-
The battle of blades wore on as both crews looked on in amazement at the captains' skill. On the surface, it appeared that neither captain could gain even an inch over the other, but then the crew of The Deception noticed the uncharacteristic shade of red in their captain's face and the beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He was trying with all his might to best this young man.
The younger captain- on the other hand- was showing no signs of strain or stress whatsoever. On the contrary, his expression was calm and collected- as though he were merely discussing the weather with a friend or sailing on the calm blue seas- not a care in the world. His breathing was deep and even, and he seemed to be actually enjoying this skirmish- as if he were merely toying with his opponent.
"Why d'ye defend tha' room so staunchly, laddie?" The Scot queried, to which a scowling Will answered, "None of your business. Let's just say that the captain of this ship and I are very close, and I cannot allow a friend to be attacked without just cause."
"Hmph. 'Just cause', eh? This be a pirate ship, laddie, no' a respectable merchant vessel. I've laid eye on this particular ship afore, an' she's no' changed 'er colours at all o'er th' course o' th' year." He growled self-righteously and glared up at the main mast, where the traditional flag of the South China seas flew proudly.
Will scoffed. "You're rather proud, my good man. Just because a vessel may not fly the flag of the EITC does not make them pirates. I happen to know that The Empress- the lovely vessel on which you presently stand- has made nothing but peaceful and honest trade ever since her captain first took command of her wheel." He smiled proudly, his mind on his dear wife and Pirate King. And it was true, technically. Though Elizabeth was technically the Pirate King, she hadn't wanted her 'navy' to get in trouble, so she and the other vessels under her command had laid low on the whole 'pirate' front for the past few months.
"Lies!" Redbeard spat as he continued to exchange blows with the young immortal. "Ah was there, boy. At tha' battle 'tween th' Dutchman an' tha' cursed pirate Sparrow. An' this ship was 'mong th' lily-livered cowards 'oo dared defy th' Company." He spat, pulling his cutlass away from his battle with the rival captain and- faster than anyone expected- running it through the young man's chest. Right through his heart- had it been where it was supposed to be.
Will gasped in shock at the unexpected blow, but that surprise was nothing compared to what followed the attack. Behind him, the door to the Captain's Quarters had opened silently during their exchange, and a figure crept out of it- unnoticed by all but a few of the crew of The Empress. The figure had come out with a drawn blade, ready to defend her loyal crew with all her might. When Redbeard thrust his sword through his opponent's chest and Will doubled over in pain, Elizabeth could not keep back a small gasp of fear- alerting both captains to her presence. However, neither could acknowledge her at the moment, one captain keeping his eye on his seemingly struggling opponent, and one keeping up the appearances of feigning hurt. He wasn't truly injured- as nothing could really hurt him now- but Redbeard didn't need to know that.
Redbeard smiled cruelly as he yanked his sword out of the younger captain, watching him fall to one knee with a satisfied smirk on his bearded visage. Will took a few gasping breaths to keep up the ruse, then- to everyone but one's considerable surprise- he looked up at his opponent with a grin of triumph on his now pain-free face. "Missed. Nice try, though." He smirked.
The Company captain was gobsmacked. "B-b-but- h-how?" He sputtered, speechless. Then- off in the distance- he spotted The Flying Dutchman floating just a few kliks away. His eyes went wide as saucers, and his mouth gaped like a beached fish. "Davy Jones-" He whispered, sudden fear building in his cold, beetle-black eyes.
"Not quite, but I understand the confusion." Will shrugged nonchalantly. "I am his replacement, and have been for three-quarters of a year now. I'm guessing you know what that means." He looked at the stocky Scotsman with a cold glare, the light of humour gone from his dark eyes. The man could only gulp audibly for an answer. "I see that you do." Will observed quietly, turning his head ever so slightly to meet the eyes of his wife, who still looked frightened and exhausted from the trials she had just recently undergone. Then, looking up at the Scot through his eyelashes- and looking quite menacing as he did so- the young immortal growled, "Get out."
Never had the crew of The Empress seen a crowd of sailors flee so quickly, tripping over themselves and some falling off the gangplank and into the dark waters in their haste to escape from the 'Angel of Death' that stood calmly behind them, sword still drawn and gleaming in the silver light of the full moon.
-Some time later-
Redbeard growled like a rabid dog that knew it had been cornered as Will and four of the crew of The Empress marched him below deck to the brig, to await trial in Port Royal for attacking The Empress without cause. When the Scot was safely behind bars, Will practically flew up the stairs to the deck, where he instinctively knew his true love would be waiting for him. It had been absolute torture having to be away from her all these months, and now he would finally be able to see her again.
If only for a short while.
Just as expected, Elizabeth was indeed standing amidships on the deck, waiting for him with a beaming smile on her face and a bundle cradled in her arms. She was wearing a simple white cotton dress that reached to half her calves, and her face was drenched with sweat and her hair was messy and windblown, but to Will's eyes she looked as beautiful as an angel. The young immortal ran to his wife and embraced her in a heartfelt hug, being careful of the bundle in her arms. Stealing a quick kiss from her lips, he whispered- so softly that she almost missed it- "Elizabeth."
"Will." She breathed in the same soft tone, her beaming smile growing even wider as she looked down at her newborn babe. "This is your son."
Will's eyes shone with wonder as he beheld the tiny baby in his wife's arms, sleeping soundly as he listened to the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the sides of the ship. More gently than anyone would've ever thought possible, Will stroked his hand across the baby's forehead and down his cheek, then bent down and brushed his son's forehead with a sweet kiss, standing back up and repeating it with his wife. Elizabeth giggled at his theatrics, but she knew how proud he was to be a father.
After what seemed an eternity of awed silence, Elizabeth tentatively asked her husband, "What do you think his name should be?"
Will smiled up at her from looking down at his newborn son, who was now held in his gentle arms. He grinned at her. "I'd much rather hear your ideas first."
She grinned back. "Well, I was thinking about 'William' again, but then it would get a bit confusing when he's older. I also thought about- making his middle name 'James'." She smiled sheepishly, and Will smiled sadly. "Of course." He nodded. "I was thinking along similar lines, but I would've made his middle name 'Jack', after the man who brought us together." He laughed, rolling his eyes at the mere thought of their mutual friend and fellow captain, Jack Sparrow. Then a thought occurred to him. "If his first name is 'William', we could always shorten it to 'Liam', right?" He smiled at his wife, and her face lit up in agreement. "That settles it. 'Liam' it is." [And yes, I know his real name is Henry, but I wanted it to be Liam. So there.]
"It's been like a wonderful dream, having you here." Elizabeth whispered to her husband as little Liam slept in his new crib. "I never thought I'd have this again. At least, not for ten long years."
Will smiled sadly. "Likewise, my love. But unfortunately, all dreams must come to an end. It's nearly dawn, and I must return to my Duty. No matter how much I may wish to stay." He kissed his wife's forehead one last time, then walked over to his son's sleeping form and did the same. After bidding farewell to his family, Will backed away toward the door leading to the deck and whispered, "Until we meet again, keep a weather eye on the horizon."
Then he was gone, and the Pirate King was alone in the Captain's Quarters with her infant son.
When Will appeared on the deck of The Deception, he was surprised, to say the least. He had expected to appear on The Flying Dutchman as he'd intended. But then he sighed lightly. There must be souls aboard that needed his guidance, that's all. With a shrug of his shoulders, he descended the deck of the Company ship the human way- his expression betraying no emotion.
It was a good thing that he'd assumed this mask, because the sight that met his eyes was nothing short of appalling. Countless shackles and fetters hung from the supports of the vessel- to which were chained dozens of men, women and even children from faraway lands- clearly marked to be sold as slaves at the next port. Will grimaced at the foul odour permeating the area, as most of the unfortunate men and women had wounds that had become infected and festered.
"Please, sir." A boy no older than seven years old tugged on the hem of his shirt, and Will looked down in surprise. The boy was clearly of European descent, and Will guessed that he was either a cabin boy or a crewman's son.
"Please. Save us." The boy begged, and Will's confusion grew. "My papa an' everyone here was either kidnapped, press-ganged or shanghaied into service by Captain Redbeard. Most of us can't swim, an' we have no way of navigating these seas without a captain. Please, you've got to help." He wept, holding his arm at an awkward angle, and the young immortal realized with a jolt that his arm was broken. In fact, none of the crew of The Deception was unmarked by some kind of injury- which ranged from multiple bruises to broken limbs and protruding bones.
Though his heart was not physically in his chest at the moment, Will felt a pang of pity at the plight of these unwilling sailors, crewmen and slaves aboard the vessel, but especially for the children who were forced to witness such savagery and cruelty. Having grown up in a war-torn environment himself, Will was convinced that no child should have to witness such things as he had.
Will sighed slowly as he knelt down to the boy's eye-level and put a gentle hand on his shoulder in an effort to comfort him. Looking at him with kind eyes, he answered the boy's plea. "I regret that I cannot take you aboard my own vessel, but- rest assured, young lad- I will find a way to get you home to where you belong. All of you." This last statement he addressed to the entire gathering, and most of the slaves looked up in surprise at the kindhearted captain.
But then, the boy said something that took the young immortal by surprise. "Even those who've already died? Will you take them home?"
Will gasped softly. He hadn't expected to be recognised. After all, it had been only nine months since he was forced to take up the Duty after the maelstrom battle with the EITC.
"My papa saw your ship, sir." The boy continued, just a little nervous. "An' he told me why you're here. You'll take them to Fiddler's Green, right?" He asked, his voice quavering. After all, he was in the presence of the legendary captain of The Flying Dutchman. A captain who was rumoured to be immortal and possess the powers of a god. Or, at the very least, the Angel of Death.
Will smiled. "Exactly. That's exactly why I'm here." He winked at the lad in a reassuring gesture that he meant no harm. "You've kept up with your lessons. I'm sure your papa is very proud of you." When the boy smiled, Will's grin grew wider and he stood to his feet again, giving the boy's hair an affectionate ruffle. Then he looked up and addressed the whole gathering.
"The ship that your former captain attempted to attack is no foe, and her captain is a person very close to my heart. You can rest assured that The Empress will grant you safe passage to your homes, for she is a trading vessel and not one commanded by lawless brigands. It may take some time, but you can be certain that you will eventually return to your loved ones." He announced, and his declaration was met with much jubilation and applause. He smiled as he carefully walked among the dozens of slaves, breaking the manacles from their wrists and ankles with his sword. Such was his skill that he left not a mark on their person when sundering the fetters, and he received many hugs and heartfelt thanks from those he liberated- the embraces mostly from the children.
When everyone had been freed from the chains that had bound them, Will signaled for the crew and former slaves to stay below deck. At their looks of confusion, Will smiled and explained, "I just need to inform my fellow captain of the situation. I'm certain she will agree to bring you home, but it might be prudent to give her some warning before she thinks her ship is being invaded." He made a face. "Again." He chuckled lightly, and most of the crew and slaves laughed with him.
The exchange only took a mere five minutes, and Captain Elizabeth Turner herself welcomed the new arrivals with open arms, immediately calling her ship's doctor to tend to the badly wounded. When the last passenger crossed the gangplank- the young boy Will had spoken to earlier- she smiled at her husband across the way and blew him a kiss, which he caught and touched his fingers to his own mouth. Then he pointed first to his eyes, then back to her, then east toward the horizon. Elizabeth laughed and nodded, signaling that she understood his message, then Will disappeared below the deck of The Deception to attend to the dying and already departed.
Once again, Will found himself surprised at the sight that met his eyes. Among those souls that remained on the ship, he found that one or two of them still had the breath of life in them, but that both would not last the night- never mind the journey home. Closing his eyes and calming his breathing back to a slow and even pace, he quietly approached the man who was closer and knelt at his side, taking his right hand in both of his own.
The older man looked up at the touch to find kind and warm brown eyes smiling sadly down on him, and a weak smile of his own graced his worn face.
"Do you fear death?" Will whispered softly, compassion being the only emotion in his eyes. He would not let the painful memories of his own experiences with that question rise to the surface and complicate this poor soul's passing. He wanted to make it as easy as possible for the dying man.
To his relief, though he was not really surprised, the man slowly shook his head. "I lead good life up to now. Death is but next great adventure. I not fear."
Will smiled in approval. "Then your passage aboard my vessel is free. And so are you." He told the man, resting the man's hand over his chest and nodding his farewell. "I'll see you on the Dutchman."
The old slave smiled back weakly and closed his eyes, his breathing becoming more and more shallow until it disappeared completely. Will smiled softly again as he witnessed the spirit of the old man rise from his corpse and stand to his feet, stronger than he had felt in years. With a nod of acknowledgement, the soul smiled and floated right through the port side of the ship, bound for the deck of The Flying Dutchman that was still moored nearby, waiting patiently for her captain.
Will made his way to the remaining dying slave, this one a young woman who quite resembled his pirate friend Anna Maria. Repeating his actions with the older man earlier, Will took the woman's hand in both of his and asked her the same question. Only this time, his answer was a nod rather than a shake of the head.
Will's gentle smile never faltered. "Then I can offer you a place among my crew, until such time as you are ready to pass on. I won't force you, and you are free to move on as soon or as late as you wish."
The young woman smiled as much as she could manage, then nodded again, closing her eyes and meeting her death with acceptance and peace. When her breaths had stilled, he called out to his crew with his mind, sending a message that only they could hear. A few of his more trusted crewmen would take care of the bodies of the two former slaves, and would give them a traditional burial at sea. Then they would unload the vessel of its remaining cargo and sink the abomination beneath the cold waves. Without another word, he transported himself from the nauseating hold and to the deck of the ship that had become his destiny for the next ten years- the once cursed and most feared vessel of the seven seas, The Flying Dutchman. He had some passengers to bring home.
End of Chapter 2
Aww. This is probably my favorite chapter of this story so far, and it's quite possibly the cheesiest as well. Eh, whatever.
I had a vague idea of the contents of this chapter when I first started writing it, but- once again- it morphed into a hulking monster and got away from me, taking my whole idea along with it. However, this time I think it turned out rather well. Thanks, mutant plot-bunny! *pets the giant rabbit on its cute widdle nose*
Originally, I had planned for Will to be present when Liam was born, and had the whole 'battle' section of the chapter as an idea for another vignette, but then that plot-bunny had to jump right into my lap and I just had to merge the two ideas somehow. And voila! This was the result. It's an improvement, right?
Of course, then I had to put in a little heartache with the unwilling crew and 'passengers' of The Deception. [I refuse to think of slaves as merely 'cargo'. Ugh. That's just barbaric.] Don't worry, you'll get some humor in the next chapter to erase the bitterness and sadness of this one. More of Jack's 'antics', no doubt. Yay!
Well, that's enough of my blathering. On to chapter 3!