Aug. 27th, 2007

bringmethatnpc: (cannibal island)
The sandbar upon which this parlay is being held is well-marked on the Company's maps. A ship full of cargo would run a serious risk of being grounded when the tide is at its ebb -- not necessarily hulled below her waterline or even truly damaged, but nonetheless stuck until the seas rise again and a good breeze comes up to turn her sails away from this spit of sand. Even experienced navigators would agree that it is a stretch of water best avoided, if at all possible.

When Lord Beckett gave the order to sail directly for the sandbar -- well, after all this time, one more piece of madness makes little difference to the lieutenants in charge of setting the course and signalling to the rest of the fleet.

They merely do as they are told, because it is ever so much simpler that way.

If one or two of them happen to wonder at the fact that the sandbar is somehow completely uncovered by water, even now when the tide should still be high enough to submerge it to a depth of at least two fathoms...again, it is one more piece of madness to be duly noted and then quietly set aside in a place where can be easily ignored.

Even well-marked maps can be incorrect, sometimes.




Aboard the Black Pearl, there'd been a brief scuffle amongst the pirates over who would get to use one of their very limited supply of spyglasses. (No one wants to miss out on what's happening on that sandbar.) One of the victors is Marty -- mostly because he'd all but bitten the fingers off his nearest rival, one of Sao Feng's former crew -- and he's taken his prize up to the crow's nest to get the best view of everything that's taking place a short distance away.

Captain Barbossa, Captain Swann (it still seems odd to think of her like that, but if she's really Pirate King he supposes he'd better get used to it), and Captain Sparrow are walking across the sand, on their way to face their enemies.

Turner, the traitorous bastard with his smug little smile.

Cutler Beckett, who for some reason is tarted up in brocade and gold lace like a fop on his way to pick up a whore at the opera.

And the hideous spectacle of Davy Jones, who --

-- and Marty frowns.

He lowers the spyglass, wipes off the lens with the ragged edge of his waistcoat, and raises it again.

Clearly, it isn't the spyglass. And his eyes probably aren't playing tricks on him. But it's still a baffling sight.

Davy Jones, the cursed and feared commander of the eternally damned Flying Dutchman, appears to be standing in a bucket of water.




There were many many ways Will planned his reunion with Elizabeth. Standing on the end of a tidal sandspit, at the left hand of Cutler Beckett - that didn't feature very high up the list. He'd probably feel a lot more confident if he hadn't just been doing all the physical work in rowing over here and hauling a pail of seawater up on to the sand.

But for once, Will does feel - well, almost confident. He's maneuvered things well, he feels. Beckett and Jones have agreed to his terms; his father will soon be free, Elizabeth will be saved from her death sentence, and he can finally marry her.

Assuming she survived Sao Feng. And it's to worry about her that Will ascribes the gnawing feeling in his stomach, and the heavy thump of his heart. Everything will be all right, he tells himself, once Elizabeth and my father are safe.

The figures approaching take shape, and he sees who stands in the middle, flanked by the others, and Will realises he actually has no idea what's going on.




Although the long and thin sandbar is agreed-upon neutral territory, Elizabeth, Barbossa and Jack purposely leave their longboat at the far end; trust is always in short supply among pirates. As they begin the lengthy walk toward the three figures awaiting them, Elizabeth can't help wondering why one -- or both -- of the fleets doesn't blast this strip of blindingly white sand out of existence. Each of the six people present has some sort of bone to pick with the other five, but so many others stand to lose their lives this day.

And she put them in this position. While she remains certain of her choice, her conversation with Jack weighs heavily on her mind. Beside her, face inscrutable, he walks through the soft, thick sand like he's out for a Sunday stroll, and Elizabeth considers that this parley might be the very reason Jack made her king.

The first time Elizabeth demanded her right to parley, she was in her nightdress and found herself outwitted by the pirate now on her right, keeping pace as they stride toward their opposition. She’d loathed and feared Captain Barbossa that night -- as evidenced by the embarrassing number of screams she'd let out at the first touch of moonlight. He'd also fascinated her, and that, along with her love of adventure and freedom, hasn't changed. After their incredible journey and his impassioned speech before the Brethren Court, Elizabeth begrudgingly allows that she’s glad to have Barbossa on her side, even if it's merely a temporary circumstance.

No, there's no doubt that the men flanking her have their own agendas. But so does Elizabeth.

Davy Jones is of little interest to her, beyond a cursory study of his horrible visage and writhing beard; she hadn't gotten a good look aboard the Empress. He's more monster than man -- a male Medusa, leaving death in his wake -- and controlled as he is by the shorter monster at his side, Elizabeth is curious why he's been invited to attend their little party. If he's meant to terrify them into submission, Beckett would have done better to leave him aboard his legendary ship; it's hard to be frightened by someone standing in a bucket.

Her eyes narrow as she draws close enough to observe the perpetually smug expression on Beckett's face. Here is the man responsible for her father's murder. He would never get his own hands bloody, of course, but Elizabeth's fury is such that he might as well have delivered the death blow himself. She wonders what made him this way, what slight in his youth built his need for dominance until he festered into this dangerous, vile man. All that matters is defeating him once and for all.

Well, almost all. Gaze flickering to Will, Elizabeth drinks in the sight of him and feels her breath catch. She'd known him at once, before they were even out of the boat, but she'd been careful not to stare until she could see his eyes and evaluate where they stand. Now she can't look away. Her first thought is that he looks magnificent: the wine color of his shirt suits him, and there's a new confidence in his bearing. A closer examination of his expression doesn't tell her as much she wants, and Elizabeth finds it surprisingly attractive, like he's a code she has to crack. They've both changed so much, and again she feels a swell of pride at what he's become.

But he did betray her. The anger and hurt stab Elizabeth anew. What game is Will playing, and why is he standing beside Beckett? These are just some of the questions that will soon be answered, Elizabeth silently swears. Tearing her eyes away from Will, she glares at Beckett and crosses the remaining stretch of sand like she owns it, and he's trespassing -- in short, like a pirate king.




It takes some effort for the limping Barbossa to keep up with Jack and miss Swann's pace along the inexplicably dry, loose sand. But damned if he's going to hang back, or ask them to slow down like some old man. Well, some -common- old man if you wish to be nitpicky.

Actually, he has to hold himself back from taking the lead. He wants to get through with this... pantomime as soon as possible. With seven of the Nine Pieces of Eight smuggled out of the Brethren Court and the remaining two aboard the Pearl his plan is very near completion, but the impatient boiling of his blood doesn't transpire. Not yet.

As they reach the end of the sandbar, his eyes come to rest upon the three figures waiting for them.

Davy Jones he doesn't hold any feelings towards. He did what any good pirate would do once the burden of his "duty" grew too heavy: Shake it off and keep on moving, leaving the shackles behind, even at the cost of his own humanity. They are enemies because of Jones's weakness and his choice to be against every living soul that sails the seas, but nothing more.

Then there's Beckett. Even in his mind, he refuses to call him 'Lord'. Shortest of the three, even though he's standing straight, almost as if to attention, the arrogant little man. Parlay. Didn't he want to be sure no harm is going to befall the two remaining Pieces of Eight he wouldn't even have been here. He may be an unprincipled, sneaky and mutinous bastard, but there are men he wouldn't stoop to dealing with.

And then his eyes fall upon Turner. Ah, a good target to vent some steam under the cover of righteous indignation.

"You be the cur who lead these wolves to our door."




The bitterness in Barbossa's voice as he snarls at Will is a little surprising, and Jack flicks him a curious glance, but it's only a moment before the man who styles himself 'Lord' interrupts.

"Don't blame Turner," Beckett says, as smooth as China silk. "He was merely the tool of your betrayal. If you wish to see its grand architect, look to your left."

Ah, but it’s all about betrayal, now isn't it?

Jack smiles winningly back at them and spreads his hands as he protests, "My hands are clean in all this." A beat. "Figuratively."




As the three pirates - and yes, all three of them are pirates, even Elizabeth - come to a halt in front of Will and his companions, he inhales and rests his hand on his sword, for reassurance and a re-surge of that confidence. He's relieved when Barbossa speaks first. It gives him something to focus on that isn't staring at her, and wondering why she's dressed like a Singaporean.

"You be the cur that led these wolves to our door?"

"Don't blame Turner. He was merely the tool of your betrayal," Beckett says promptly and, Will feels, a little unfairly. After all, it was his - Will's - plan to lead the East India Company this way. He worked out how, and he designed events so that he would be assured the safety of the two people who mattered - and himself. He's rather put out when Beckett hands the credit to Jack. Luckily - and predictably - Jack denies it.

"My actions were my own and to my own purpose. Jack had nothing to do with it."

"Will, I've been aboard the Dutchman," Elizabeth says, and now he can look her in the eye, because it's still her, and with that tone, he can still believe that she cares for him. "I understand the burden you bear but I fear that course is lost."

"No course is lost," Will assures her, "if there is but one fool left to fight for it."

He permits himself a glance at Jack, and is bolstered by the small possibly even proud smile he sees on the Captain's face. Maybe they can come out of this victorious.




It's already been implied that Will is responsible for betraying their location, so Elizabeth isn't surprised when Barbossa opens the proceedings by laying the blame at his feet. Beckett, reeking with self-importance, credits Jack, who quickly denies the treachery. Elizabeth eyes him, knowing full well that Jack's denials are often as good as an admission of guilt, but then Will agrees.

"My actions were my own and to my own purpose. Jack had nothing to do with it."

There's only one purpose he could mean: Bootstrap. Will came on this journey and helped rescue the Pearl in order to save his father, and he's never made any secret of that fact; of his methods, yes, but Elizabeth has always known his ultimate goal. Swallowing her lingering resentment, she remembers the state Bootstrap had been in and nearly gasps as a cold fist squeezes her heart. It's too late. He can't be saved. And if Will tries, they all might lose.

"Will, I've been aboard the Dutchman." Elizabeth keeps her voice slow and steady, willing him to understand. "I understand the burden you bear but I fear that course is lost."

Don’t base your choices on a prize you can't win, she pleads silently.

"No course is lost," Will replies, gaze direct. It's clear he's trying to tell her something. "If there is but one fool left to fight for it."

His eyes shift to Jack in a meaningful glance. Is Jack the fool in question? Certain that she's missing a crucial detail, Elizabeth lets her mind race as Beckett seeks to prove Jack guilty by presenting them with the infamous compass. He does so with as much satisfaction as he once delivered her warrant, but Elizabeth has no trouble ignoring the urge to slap the smirk from his face. Something is going on, and she's determined to catch up. It might be the advantage they need.




At Beckett's reply, he looks to the left, towards Jack. But of course, No treason too big to save your own hide, ah, mate...?

His eyes narrow as Turner claims the blame, but he doesn't completely believe the boy. He might have been under the impression that he was the one leading this treacherous plot along, but Barbossa holds no doubt about who the greater deceiver is between those two, even in the face of Turner's recent exploits in the field of double-dealing.

Then there's something. A glance exchanged between Turner and Jack, a smile from Sparrow back to the whelp. Could it be...? Of course. They -are- together in this. Turner wants his father free from the Dutchman, but the current captain would never release one of his men. And Jack... Jack is after the Heart.

Beckett's voice is like poison trickling slowly in his ear. The compass, of course; that's how they found Shipwreck Cove. But it doesn't surprise him anymore. This far, he's ready to believe any low from Jack. So desperate is he, to sacrifice freedom in exchange for eternal life? Well, Barbossa has had a taste of it and he could tell Jack a thing or two about what en eternity bound by the chains of magic feels like. With contempt etched in every line of his face, he turns to Jack once more. And people still wonder why, why the hatred and the spite. If only he didn't need him to release Calypso...




"You made a deal with me, Jack. To deliver the pirates. And here they are." In a move calculated to be condescending, Beckett tosses the compass to Jack, who catches it deftly. Think you’ve got everything you want, do you, mate? "Don't be bashful. Step up, claim your reward."

Jack starts to answer, but when Jones breaks in, Beckett is forgotten.

"Your debt to me is still to be satisfied. One hundred years in servitude aboard the Dutchman-- as a start."

He'd known it was coming; it had to happen, really, and yet Jack finds it doesn't matter. Every muscle in his body has tightened in reaction. "That debt was paid, mate--"

I won't be any man's slave, Jones. And you'll never take me back to your Locker.

"--with some help," Jack adds, almost as an afterthought.

Jones snorts at him. "You escaped."

Jack grins. Wickedly.

Something for both of us to remember.




"Your debt to me is still to be satisfied," Jones growls. "One hundred years in servitude aboard the Dutchman. As a start."

(If Jones be slain, then he who slays him must take his place. Captain. Forever.)

Elizabeth's eyes widen and she looks at Will with sudden comprehension. They do have a plan. A good plan. If Jack is on the Dutchman, he can kill Davy Jones and free Bootstrap without any risk to Will -- and not because he's suddenly feeling altruistic, either. By doing so, Jack would secure the one treasure he wants above all others: an assurance that he would never die again.

"That debt was paid, mate. With some help." Jack gestures to Elizabeth; she barely notices.

Immortality.

Watching her as if he can read her mind or direct her thoughts with enough effort, Will nods faintly and gives her the smallest of smiles. It's all Elizabeth needs. Interrupting Jack's talk of technicalities, she bursts out, "I propose an exchange. Will leaves with us. And you can take Jack."

"Done!" says Will.

"Not done!" Jack quickly counters.

Elizabeth can feel Barbossa's furious glare. "Jack's one of the nine pirate lords. You have no right."

She does, actually, and takes great pleasure in reminding him: "King!”




It's hardly surprising when Jones brings up the debt he still feels Jack owes him, and as Elizabeth tries to follow exactly what each side is saying, Will keeps his gaze steadily on her. She knows him, she knows Jack. He can only hope she comes to the same conclusion he already has.

Take me, he wills her silently. Jack can get out of anything. He'll be more use fighting Jones. You need me at your side, Elizabeth. Propose an...

"I propose an exchange," Elizabeth says suddenly. "Will leaves with us. And you can take Jack."

"Done," Will says promptly. And when Jack immediately protests, Will hopes that he's acting. He's getting rather tired of playing the traitor.

Barbossa objects to the arrangement as much as Jack. Will's not exactly sure why, but one word sticks out amongst everything else he doesn't quite follow. Why Elizabeth is in the middle, why she suddenly has this air of authority that just adds to the many reasons Will adores her, and why she ultimately gets her way.

She looks Barbossa right in the eye, and with the tone of someone who knows this is all the argument she needs, she pronounces herself "King."




His gaze still falls upon Jack while he argues back and forth with Jones, still trying to bargain, to lie and fast-talk his way out of trouble, even before the merciless, unstoppable captain of the Dutchman. And then, the damned -girl- speaks up and suddenly Barbossa's plan is in danger of capsizing.

"I propose an exchange. Will leaves with us, and you can take Jack."

He turns to her, cold rage rising inside him. No. Not this close. He's had enough of bloody amateurs turning the tables on him at the last moment.

"Jack is one of the nine Pirate Lords. You have no right."

And then she has the nerve to pull her rank on him.

"King."

King. King of the Pirates. As if the title meant anything in the face of what's looming over them. But now Jack sees his chance to get closer to the Heart and his own goal, and smiles, bowing and taking his hat off, and Barbossa's mind finds a tiny opening for his own plan to get back on track. Drawing his sword, he slashes across Jack's forehead, sending the metal token and the braid it's attached to flying into the sand.

"Blaggard!"

The indignant insult is flawless. It helps that he is, actually, quite full of hatred for his former captain at the moment. Luckily, Jack the monkey hasn't forgotten how he was trained to retrieve magical baubles for his master, and before Jack the man can react, Barbossa has stepped up to him, eyes narrowed to mere slits and the corners of his lips curled into a smile that is sweet as poisoned honey.

"You got something to say, I might be saying something as well."

It's a challenge, from one plotter to another. You go on with your plan and I'll go on with mine. Neither needs to impede the other, and for once, we could both succeed and go on our separate ways... Once and for all. And Jack seems to understand.

"First to the finish, then...?"

Either he has not noticed, or maybe doesn't care anymore, that this unspoken deal between the two of them means that Barbossa will get to keep the Pearl, which is all right with the Spaniard.

Then the exchange is made, Turner greeted with another cold, contemptuous look from Barbossa. Beneficial as Jack's distraction aboard the Dutchman may be, the boy is still a traitor, tried and true. Or untrue.

The rest of the so-called parlay is a mere exchange of empty threats between the heads of both fleets, and then, at last, they turn to leave and Jack-the-monkey can climb back to his shoulder and hand him the Piece of Eight without arousing more suspicion.




As the sword flashes through the air towards his head, Jack has only a second to hope that Barbossa's as deft with a blade as he remembers him being.

And then it's done, and the pestiferous little beast of a monkey is scampering to its master with the coin-- the last Piece of Eight-- clutched in its grasping fist. Barbossa glares at Jack.

"If ye have somethin' to say, I might be sayin' something as well."

There's an odd light in the black eyes as Jack offers him a small, fey smile.

"First to the finish, then?"

It's both more and less of a wrench to his soul than he'd thought it would be as Jack Sparrow walks across the sand to trade places with Will Turner, leaving the Black Pearl behind in the Spaniard's hands.

He'd traded his life before in payment to raise her from her own death, then bargained for her a second time to bring her to Milliways. Together they'd returned from the Locker. They're square.

Take good care of her, mate.

Beckett steps to the side, making it clear who's the prisoner here as he makes room for Jack between himself and Jones-- who leans in to ask, tauntingly,

"Do you fear death?"

Jack looks toward the others-- and beyond them, toward the unstinting, endless blue where sea meets sky.

(bring me that horizon)

"You've no idea."




Elizabeth says nothing more, watching events play out until Will is at her side and Jack is next to Davy Jones. Casting a tentative glance at Will, she feels a surge of hope. They accomplished something together. It lends her strength, and her eyes are cold when she faces Beckett once more.

"Advise your Brethren." Full of disdain, he steps forward to address them. "You can fight and all of you will die. Or you can not fight, in which case only most of you will die.”

Elizabeth matches his step with one of her own, and her fingers itch to draw her sword and end this right now. "You murdered my father," she says scathingly.

"He chose his own fate."

Beckett is lucky she's digging her nails into her palms. "And you have chosen yours," she informs him. "We will fight. And you will die."

Unwilling to remain in his presence a moment longer, Elizabeth turns and marches away. Will is only a few steps behind. "King?"

"Of the Brethren Court. Courtesy of Jack." She spares him a quick glance and feels some of the tension drain away. Will's beside her again, and despite everything that has happened, she realizes that's exactly where she wants him to be.

"Maybe he really does know what he's doing."

Elizabeth hopes so. Their very lives depend on it.




The part of Will that's not seriously hoping Jack knows what he's doing and doesn't think he's been betrayed again, really quite enjoys the face-off as the two men step towards each other, circle proudly, holding each other's eye, and back into the places left with either side. It feels right, taking his place at Elizabeth's side, and as she turns to himi, he feels his heart lift in a way he's been sorely lacking for months - perhaps even since the bar. It's not that she's changed since he saw her last, it's more that she's grown in spirit; moving with authority and assurance he's only seen hints of before. As she issues one last threat to Beckett, Will wonders what happened to her on the Empress, but he can't deny that she's even more beautiful to him now than she's ever been.

"King?" he asks her, as they head back to the dinghy.

"Of the Brethren Court. Courtesy of Jack."

Will has to acknowledge the shrewedness of the move, and resists the temptation to look back at Captain Sparrow.

"Maybe he really does know what he's doing."




It took a lot, quite a lot, to not say or do anything, when it was clear that Elizabeth and Barbossa were returning with Will--

Leaving Jack with Beckett and Jones.

Wellard's jaw clenched, as furious thoughts raced through his mind. Just exactly whose side were they on, to betray a member of their crew, to betray--

("So long as no one does anything stupid.")

And at this moment, anything he could do would be just that. Futile, self-defeating, and, as Jack said, stupid. Right now the smart thing would be just doing his best to stay alive until all of this was over. Wellard sighed quietly and started checking the spare shot and powder for his pistol.

"I do hope you know what you're doing, Jack."

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