Elizabeth Turner watched her husband disappear into the sea. She didn’t cry despite the ache in her heart, and she didn’t linger. No, none of that for her. Instead she took to her oars and returned to the Black Pearl where the celebrations were in full swing.
“Gone then?” Jack Sparrow called from the poop deck. He sat with his legs dangling above his cabin door and listed more than usual, a bottle of rum wavering in his hand. Elizabeth dodged a few sailors, snatching a bottle out of one foolish enough to swing it near her face, and joined Jack up top, setting the chest between them. Below, off key singing –”Yo Ho!” – and the stamp of feet clamored as loud as any street in Tortuga, the sound of men alive and free.
Jack gave her a suspicious eye when she tipped her bottle toward him for a toast. “You do know that’s rum,” he said as their bottles clinked. Elizabeth smothered the smile that threatened, taking a long pull. “Don’t waste it.”
“He’s gone,” she said simply.
“But your wedding night was . . . satisfactory?” Jack leaned in close to leer, and Elizabeth put an elbow in his ribs. “Oy, woman!”
“It’s none of your business,” she said sharply. “But yes.”
“Boy has a pair, after all,” said Jack, quickly leaning away this time and nearly toppling over the other side. “And look,” he waved grandly to distract her, “he gave you his heart! How poetical. Bet you’d rather have other parts.”
Elizabeth sighed, melancholy settling in. “I’d rather have him.” The chest was cool to the touch and still ugly. “But this will do.”
“Aye,” agreed Jack looking down to what lay between them, his fingers following hers, enchanted. “Aye, it will do. Now!” He caught her hand as suddenly as he caught her gaze. “Time to dance!”
“I insist.” He got wobbly to his feet, promptly misjudged his step, and fell to the deck, startling a laugh out of Elizabeth as he staggered to his feet and, seeming to forget her, into the shuffle of the men. Or so she thought until he turned and winked at her.
Elizabeth was in no mood to dance without Will, however, and contented herself with watching the display of vibrancy and heart. “I wish you were here,” she whispered to the chest. The horizon was aflame with the torches from a hundred ships, music from all the world echoing and mingling across the water. It was a powerful sight, but one that left Elizabeth feeling bereft. She retired early, stealing Jack’s bed since he would undoubtedly pass out on the deck.
“We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot. Drink up me 'earties yo ho!” she hummed softly and let herself fall into sleep.
The Brethren Court met one last time the next day, well into the afternoon after the worst of the hangovers had worn off. Each Pirate Lord chose a new Piece of Eight that would pass through the generations and Elizabeth was voted down from her place as Pirate King. “Jack Sparrow,” Jack said with a shrug to her. “No hard feelings, love.”
Elizabeth tried not to be disappointed. The other pirate lords all met her gaze, unflinchingly smug at having defanged her. It was only to be expected; they were pirates after all. More than that, pirates who had survived to see this day. Still, it stung and when the meeting devolved into a party, Elizabeth remained morose at the scarred conference table, fingers stuttering across the wood as she wondered if this would be the last time she sat here.
A body blocking the light and the thump of a bottle interrupted her melancholy. Captain Teague, nudged the bottle closer to her and slumped into the nearby chair. “Drink up, Captain Swann,” he said to her.
“Captain?” Elizabeth queried morosely as she hefted the bottle. She could barely sail let alone run a ship. Not that she had one she thought she could hold onto.
“Aye. You carry a Piece of Eight,” Teague nodded at the ornate, Chinese button she’d chosen. “You led us in battle. Don’t need a ship to be a captain. Just look at Jackie. Though I don’t recommend taking his example.” Teague shot her a wolfish grin that reminded Elizabeth of Jack at his playful best. The resemblance was uncanny down to the flamboyance of style. He accepted back the bottle and lifted it in silent toast before taking a swig. “You’re still King, too.”
Elizabeth looked over sharply. “What?”
“Can’t change the Code,” Teague smiled lazily. “What kind of Pirate King would let himself – or herself – be unseated?”
Elizabeth was still staring and barely noticed when the bottle reappeared in her hand. “Why didn’t you say something?” Elizabeth demanded.
“And ruin the party?” Teague waved at the festivities that once would have shocked her. “’Sides, don’t need a King at the moment.”
“But I thought you were the Keeper of the Code! What was all that about upholding the letter of the Code?”
“Who says I’m not,” said Teague, amused perhaps by Elizabeth’s outrage. And outraged she was. She had just lost her husband to the Dutchman after less than a day of marriage and faced an uncertain future alone. She had thought to keep one thing that meant something and now Captain bloody Teague was telling her she was still King after having had it snatched away.
“Code just says your King. Doesn’t say anything about making people listen if they’ve not a mind to it, savvy?”
“The how does my being King mean anything at all then?” said Elizabeth, exasperated, for it was an empty title in that case, and empty titles were little consolation.
“How does any man get to be king?” Teague tugged loose the bottle of rum from Elizabeth clenched fingers.
“Clearly not by election,” Elizabeth snorted, setting the rum down with a thump.
“Ah, but why do two voices in your favor stop the squabbling?”
For all that Elizabeth was a smart woman, it took her a moment to see what he was getting at. Teague must have seen her understanding because he grinned again, and said, “The pen may be mightier than the sword, but what people forget is that the sword came first.”
The Cove was as crowded as the sea had been the night before with ships resupplying before they made for home. Elizabeth found the Singaporean ships easily with Tai Wan barking orders. He startled when he saw her. “Captain!” The sailors all stopped what they were doing to watch as she met the mate before the mast.
“I have something for you,” she said, holding out her hand. In it was a button off of the Chinese dress Sao Feng had given her to wear.
“Your Piece of Eight!” Tai Wan looked up at her sharply and the crew around them held its collective breath.
“My home is the Caribbean,” said Elizabeth, “and I wouldn’t be much of a captain if I was a captain in absentia. It’s yours.”
“You are really giving this up?” Tai Wan didn’t believe her, clearly, but Elizabeth just smiled.
“Only the Far East,” she said sweetly, dropping the button into his hand and returning to the gunwale.
“Captain Swann!” Tai Wan shouted. Elizabeth looked over her shoulder. “We will remember that you were our captain,” he said gravely.
Elizabeth nodded. “It’s Turner,” she said, smiling. “Safe journey.”
Elizabeth joined Jack and Barbossa’s crew for the voyage back to Jamaica. The wind was with them and they made good time, despite the seasonal squalls. Watching Barbossa and Jack at the wheel, she thought of having her own ship, one earned and not given by way of mistaken identity – and not from Singapore. She watched Gibbs and watched the sails. She caught Jack in philosophic mood on the weather, and Barbossa in one about the Pearl.
The crew welcomed her at their table and after a week they finally stopped stumbling over themselves on her account as she worked just as hard at the stays and in the rigging as any of them. The ropes felt solid in her hands, shaping into them strength that felt real. Up in the sails, she could feel the Pearl breathe, vibrant and powerful as she cut through the waves.
On bow watch or up in the crows nest, Elizabeth let the ship carry her along. She kept a weather eye on the horizon, and when the sun dipped orange into the water, she wondered where Will was now. Sometimes, when it became too much, she closed her eyes and listened to the wind tangle through her hair.
Port Royale was a bit of a mess when Elizabeth finally arrived by way of a merchant ship from Tortuga. East India Trading Company ships were still in evidence, as was the His Majesty’s Navy, but the docks were far from settled.
No one noticed Elizabeth as she headed into town dressed as she was in a man’s garb. No one noticed when she went to the Governor’s mansion and picked her way through a cracked window and inside.
It felt a lifetime since she had been here last, the morning of her first wedding day that ended in the first day of Beckett’s reign. It felt like being among the ghosts again, all the more painful for every reminder of her father throughout. There the chair where he read to her as a child, there his desk where he carried out the King’s business, here the parlor where he entertained the local aristocracy. Elizabeth walked through it all, touched it all in a final goodbye. Unwilling tears stained her cheeks by the time she made it to her room.
It was like a dream of someone else’s life, light and airy where Elizabeth’s life now held dark corners and swords. Her jewelry box was gone, undoubtedly into the safe keeping of the servants, but she found her dresses neatly tucked away in a trunk. She pulled them out, and picked two of the plainer ones, and then a fancy one, just in case. Ladies’ shoes, the candlesticks, mirror, and combs she found in another trunk – the house must not have been long closed – and went into her sea duffle on top of the chest.
Elizabeth took a few more flashy trinkets on her way back to the front door. She’d have to sell them elsewhere but it would give her a start.
She broke into the smithy next, smashing the notice left by the Company redirecting customers to the blacksmith they patroned. It was dark and cool for the first time in Elizabeth’s memory, as if the forge knew that its master was not to return. Will’s rooms were above the shop and it was a simple matter to get past the lock that hadn’t been meant to hold for more than their wedding day. His rooms were neat and clean, the bed even haphazardly made. Elizabeth began with his trunk of clothes, holding up and inspecting a shirt that was too big for her. The pants would be as well, but a little rummaging turned up a few articles from Will’s teenage years that would do, as well as his sewing things that would take care of the rest.
On the rack on the far wall were the swords. Elizabeth found the one she had used when Will taught her to handle a weapon. It had a simple guard and was perfectly balanced, as Will’s swords always seemed to be. Her eyes roamed over the rest for good weapons were hard to come by at sea and would fetch a pretty price, but that would come later. For now, she took her sword and replaced the cutlass on her hip, then pulled the chest from her duffel and hid it at the bottom of Will’s trunk. The rest she stashed under the bed. It would do for the moment since she didn’t think anyone would come to the abandoned smithy. With a final look around to make sure everything was as she found it, Elizabeth left, relocking the door, and headed for the docks to see about a ship.
The docks were a busy contrast to the residences of the dead, crowded with sailors moving cargo and captains and merchants shouting orders. The boards creaked beneath Elizabeth’s feet and loose sail cloth awnings snapped in the wind.
Most of the ships bore the colors of the East India Trading Company, but there were a few smaller ships that did not and for once they did not appear to be the center of the Navy’s attention.
“The Flying Dutchman, I tell ye, turned right on him. The Endeavor went right up in flames,” she overheard a pair of Marines as they passed by.
“Naw, not Lord Beckett. The man’s nigh invincible!”
“Not no more. Good and gone in Davy Jones’s Locker.”
Elizabeth didn’t stop to correct him, but she was smiling when she reached the shipyards further along where the sound of hammers and repair drowned out all else. Both Navy ships and merchant ships were laid up with three more waiting in the harbor for the next berth. The pirates had lost no time in reestablishing their presence on the open water after the battle. Elizabeth continued past them all, taking a look curiously, but ending up at the far end where those ships abandoned by their owners lay awaiting salvage. There was only one that was in any condition to sail, a two masted sloop a little larger than the Interceptor. She was called Lady’s Slipper and had a few signs of battle that showed the fight had been surrendered quickly.
“Perfect,” she smiled.
The Master Carpenter nodded when she mentioned the ship. “Oh, aye, Captain Fitzpatrick’s doomed venture. Had just gone into business for himself, he had, what with the restrictions liftin’ from the Company sudden like. Got hisself attacked trying a new route to Havana, came back with naught to pay for repairs.”
“Terrible shame,” said Elizabeth. “It’s a beautiful ship.”
“Aye, a tragedy to take her apart.” The Master craftsman eyed her consideringly.
Elizabeth looked back over at the little ship. “My employer might be interested in averting such a tragedy,” she said coyly.
“And who might that be, lad?”
“Mr. Crenshaw,” she named one of her father’s friends and business associates, one of the more prominent merchant fleet owners of Port Royale.
The Master Carpenter’s eyebrows went up. “I thought he threw in with the Company?”
“As you say, the restrictions are lifting,” said Elizabeth carefully. “And the Company need not know all of a man’s affairs.”
“Oh, aye,” the Carpenter grinned and named his price for forgoing the demolition of the ship.
It was outrageous, and far more than Elizabeth could afford. “Mr. Crenshaw could buy a new ship for that,” she said and began haggling him down. They finally agreed on a price that was still too much for her to afford when Elizabeth thought to add, “This includes repairs, of course,” which set them back to negotiating once more.
In the end, Elizabeth shook his hand and made the accord, very satisfied with the turn of events. She hoisted her duffle at the door and left pondering how to get Mr. Crenshaw to pay for her ship.
Elizabeth returned to the smithy and quickly found a ledger and ink. After trimming a few pages, she began writing. The first letter she wrote was from Captain Fitzpatrick in a slanting hand, former owner of the Lady’s Slipper detailing his financial troubles the East India Trading Company had left for him and inquiring whether Mr. Crenshaw would be interested in investing in a merchant ship.
Her second letter was from herself. In it she expressed her grief over her father’s death and her brief sojourn as a guest of the East India Company, and might she impose upon Mr. Crenshaw for anything he might know about the state of affairs in Port Royale. There were dreadful rumors spreading around, and Elizabeth was afraid for her safety after her terrible ordeal. She signed it Miss Elizabeth Swann.
She took two days and two boys to deliver the letters and spent the time in between in the more disreputable quarter selling the candlesticks, wandering the market, and keeping an ear open for anyone disgruntled with the East India Trading Company and even spreading a few rumors herself. She checked both the tavern and the inn where she told Crenshaw to post his replies and was rewarded three days later with a reply to each.
The first reply to Fitzpatrick suggested a meeting to discus the “intriguing proposition.” Elizabeth stared at the words a moment before cursing herself for not thinking of this first. Where was she going to find a suitable Captain Fitzpatrick in two days?
The second reply to Elizabeth herself was more informative. Mr. Crenshaw expressed his deepest sympathies for Elizabeth’s loss; news had just reached them of the Governor’s perishing at sea. The Navy had reported that a new Governor was on the way from England to replace Sir Gibson who had temporarily stepped in when Lord Beckett had taken the Endeavor to oversee the Company’s affairs. The East India Trading Company was not quite the well oiled machine it pretended to be, if Elizabeth was reading between the lines correctly, and apparently the sudden increase in pirate attacks had set off a series of problems that had many investors speculating in other directions. He also asked if she would come for tea.
Tea was the last thing Elizabeth wanted, but she wrote him an open reply in case it proved worth her while later, and turned to the question of Fitzpatrick. The problem was, she knew Mr. Crenshaw, and more importantly, Mr. Crenshaw knew her. He was a successful businessman and would accept nothing less than a sound plan where he stood to make a profit on his investment. And for that she needed a Captain Fitzpatrick.
“Oh, hang it all,” she decided after too much worrying. She grabbed her coat and hat and went in search of the ill-fated Captain.
It took Elizabeth four days of trolling the taverns to find the man and another two hours after that to figure out how to approach him.
“Excuse me, Captain Fitzpatrick?” Elizabeth stepped up to the table and interrupted Fitzpatrick and his mate discuss other sailing schemes.
“Yes,” Fitzpatrick warily, his hand covering the snatch of paper he’d been writing on. “Who are you?”
“Mr. Gibbs, at your service. I am in the service of Mr. Crenshaw, perhaps you’ve heard of him?”
“Mr. Crenshaw, of course,” the good Captain’s tone turned much more solicitous and he waved a hand for Elizabeth to join them. “What can I do for such an esteemed gentleman?”
“It has come to Mr. Crenshaw’s attention that you have charted an alternate route to Havana that avoids those traveled . . . more widely shall we say.” Elizabeth discreetly nodded toward the two men at the bar in the colors of the East India Trading Company, both Fitzpatrick and his mate following her line of sight.
“Yes. I can cut the travel time by a day in good weather,” said Fitzpatrick. “Does Mr. Crenshaw have business in Havana?”
“Mr. Crenshaw has business everywhere,” Elizabeth replied. “He is always looking to expand his interests. If you have a ship that can perhaps aid in this endeavor, he is interested in speaking with you.”
Fitzpatrick was skilled enough in the art of negotiation that he did not return the grin his mate gave him. “I think perhaps that may be possible.” If he was wise enough to drop Mr. Crenshaw’s name to the Master Carpenter, it was very possible.
“Good. He wishes to meet with you in two days.” Elizabeth raked her eyes over him. “Do make yourself presentable.”
As she strolled out of the tavern, the two men’s eyes boring into her back, Elizabeth’s thought turned to the tricky task of making herself presentable without a maid.
Tea with Mr. and Mrs. Crenshaw was an ordeal that reminded Elizabeth of why she had always hated society. Dealing with pirates was much more interesting, but there was nothing for it unless she wanted to return to society indefinitely. For that she needed to make sure that Mr. Crenshaw would indeed back her ship.
They made small talk, and Mrs. Crenshaw fluttered around making sure everyone had tea and treating Elizabeth as if she would shatter. Conversation quickly turned to the East India Trading Company and the new representative that was on the way with the new governor to replace Lord Beckett.
“The audacity of that man,” Elizabeth was saying. “I can’t find it in my heart to be sad that he’s dead.”
“It was a difficult time for all of us, especially your father, God rest his soul,” Mr. Crenshaw shook his head. “It must have been terrible to be caught up in the middle of that mess.”
“Quite terrible,” Elizabeth agreed with a piteous shake of her head. “It has affected my life most drastically. I can’t imagine remaining in Port Royale.”
“Come now, you are home,” said Mrs. Crenshaw, a motherly smile hoping to banish Elizabeth’s pain. “It is time to start anew.”
“Yes, but I was thinking more of Havana,” replied Elizabeth. “My mother’s sister married a Spaniard, and I think I would find comfort with her. Everything here is simply another reminder of how I lost my father before his time. Unfortunately, I am quite without the means to make the journey.”
Mrs. Crenshaw clucked sympathetically. “Yes, sometimes family is what you need best. I’m sure Mr. Crenshaw has a ship to Havana that will take you safely there, don’t you, dear?”
“Yes indeed. Anything we can do, Miss Swann,” said Mr. Crenshaw.
“Oh no. I’m sure I can find passage –”
“I insist. It is the least I can do for you after your ordeal,” said Mr. Crenshaw.
Elizabeth made a show of reluctantly giving in. “Thank you,” she said sincerely.
Everything else fell into place like clockwork. When Elizabeth checked in with the Master Carpenter at the docks, the Lady’s Slipper was in a berth for repairs, paid for by Mr. Crenshaw. Word around the taverns was that Captain Fitzpatrick was assembling a crew. Elizabeth took the opportunity to nose around for sailors that had been to Tortuga. Lord Beckett had done a fine job of hunting down pirates, more so than James ever had, but there were always men who slipped through the cracks. They were difficult to find, tucked away and hidden behind respectable stories, but there was a way they pretended not to listen when she spoke of the downfall of Lord Beckett, of how the pirates of the world had banded to together and done something that, for once, everyone cheered: breaking the stranglehold of the Company.
“Havana is Spanish territory,” Elizabeth said slouched over her mug of rum. Her fingers traced a groove in the table top as she whispered close. “Gold territory. I wonder what else may be found there.”
In the end, nine of the men she discreetly sent Fitzpatrick’s way were hired on. A week later, Elizabeth dressed as the surviving daughter of the former Governor arrived for the departure of the newly repaired and freshly painted Lady’s Slipper.
“Miss Swann,” Captain Fitzpatrick greeted her with no hint of recognition, his memory easily dulled by time and expectation.
“Captain,” she greeted in kind. “Thank you for having me.”
“Think nothing of it,” said Fitzpatrick. “Anything for such a beautiful lady.”
Elizabeth just managed not to roll her eyes, and smiled prettily. Two of the sailors she’d picked grabbed her trunk, and as they passed, the taller one gave her a frown on the cusp of recognition. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow as if to dare him to speak, and accepted Fitzpatrick’s arm as he led her aboard.
The Lady’s Slipper was a small ship and Elizabeth’s cabin was small, containing only a bed and space for her trunk. Almost as soon as she was settled, she heard the call to make way, and the gentle sway of the ship as she caught the wind. Elizabeth went up onto the deck and grinned in a most unladylike fashion when the sea opened before them as they pulled out of Port Royale, salt and sun and a thousand possibilities.
Elizabeth felt alive again with the wind on her face and the swell of the ocean beneath her feet. It was at moments like these that she felt she truly understood Jack Sparrow and his need to be free of all the trappings of land. Wind and water, that’s all one needed. And a little adventure.
“Excuse me, miss,” said a sailor behind her. It was the tall fellow who had helped with her trunk. He was relatively clean cut and his dark hair was tied neatly as any respectable sailor’s was. But Elizabeth had found him in a tap room that was avoided by most respectable folk.
Elizabeth stepped out of his way, and said, “What’s your name, sailor?”
“Robert Eaves, miss,” he said after a slight, assessing pause.
“Been sailing long, Mr. Eaves?” she asked. He was older than she but didn’t look as old as Mr. Gibbs or Jack.
“Near my whole life,” he answered. “Miss. It is ‘miss’?” He regarded her shrewdly, and Elizabeth knew for certain then that he recognized her.
She smiled, the concern of being caught out warring with the thrill of her plan coming together. Mr. Eaves had been one to smile broadly when she spoke of the defeat of Lord Beckett. “For today,” she said simply. “Carry on.”
Mr. Eaves eyed her a moment longer before inclining his head and getting back to work.
That evening Elizabeth dined with Fitzpatrick and his first mate, Mr. Dawson, and endured their polite chatter about Havana and the wondrous things Elizabeth would find there. They were sociable enough, but they maintained the air of men who knew what was best for a woman which irritated her to no end. If she didn’t have to pretend she was traumatized by her recent ordeal with Lord Beckett, she would have stabbed her knife into the table and told them to stop blathering. It was a near thing, and only the fact that she was a week away from her goal did she restrain herself.
It was an easy thing to retire early, and Elizabeth fell asleep quickly to the rocking of the waves.
The passage to Havana took seven days. Elizabeth spent the days on deck under a parasol as befitted a lady and itched to be out of her dress and into the rigging. She watched the ship, she watched the sailors who were all competent men, she watched the helmsman and the weather. She suffered through the attention of Captain Fitzpatrick who seemed to think she fancied him but thankfully restrained himself from anything inappropriate. He was a respectable merchant after all, given this second chance and out to make the most of it from every angle. Elizabeth shamelessly took advantage and grilled him for his knowledge of his ship.
He had not had her long, and according to him the attack by pirates that had crippled the Lady’s Slipper had been the unfortunate result of ill-marked charts. She held together well in a storm, as Elizabeth saw for herself on the third day when thunderclouds darkened the sky, and she ran well before the wind, cutting the water like a knife.
Elizabeth also spoke with Mr. Eaves and a few of the other sailors she’d found. They were wary of her but always polite. She played the innocent girl with all but Mr. Eaves who watched her like a hawk but did nothing, asking questions about the state of the seas in the last year, how much did they sign on for, why did they want to sail, did they have families. The answer to the last was answered bitterly more often than not, most lost in the last year during the roundup by Lord Beckett.
“May he rot in the Locker!” Elizabeth bit off angrily after hearing another such tale, eliciting a blink and stutter of surprise from the pair of sailors she was speaking with.
“Miss Swann!” said Mr. Reeves.
“I hate the man,” Elizabeth said fiercely. “I hope his black heart burns forever.”
“Aye,” agreed Mr. Kilten after a potent pause. “Aye, so do we all.”
The most surprising thing about the passage, however, occurred on the fifth day. Elizabeth awoke with the blinding need to retch. She made it up and on deck in time, but still didn’t quite believe it until last evening’s dinner was going leeward. Elizabeth felt a shock she had not felt at sea in years. She never in her life had ever been seasick. This made no sense, and scared her into her cabin for the morning away from the concerned stares of the sailors and Fitzpatrick. Never in her life. This was the worst time possible for her to get sick.
When she resigned herself to the fact that she may indeed have tempted one of the many Caribbean afflictions, she returned to the deck and graciously gave her excuses which were just as graciously brushed off. Thankfully she was not sick again, although twice at dinner the next evening her stomach flipped over. Elizabeth swallowed and gritted her teeth. Maybe it was nerves.
The closer they got to Havana, the more Elizabeth felt the tension coiling in her belly. There were so many things that could go wrong, she couldn’t count them all, nor did she wish to, but they ran through her mind endlessly nevertheless. Just a little bit longer. When the call of “land ho!” came from the nest, she was one of the first to the rail beside Mr. Eaves.
“Looking forward to your fresh start, Miss Swann?” he asked.
Elizabeth spared him a glance and couldn’t stop the grin that sneaked across her face. “Very much.”
They made port in the mid afternoon. Fitzpatrick and Dawson went to see the factor about the cargo while the crew made the ship fast. It wasn’t long before they were back and the crew began unloading. Fitzpatrick came and asked for Elizabeth’s aunt’s name to send with a runner. His Spanish was obviously not more discerning than hers as he didn’t lift an eyebrow at the name she made up on the spot.
By the time the cargo was off and the provisions for the outgoing journey were on, the crew was itching to go into town. Elizabeth stood by as the crew were paid and let loose. Fitzpatrick invited her to dinner, but Elizabeth demurred saying she preferred to wait for word from her aunt. Mr. Eaves and Mr. Kilten were left on watch while the rest went into town.
“How many to sail the ship, Mr. Eaves?” Elizabeth asked as they watched them go. “Ten?”
“Aye, that about do it, I reckon,” said Mr. Eaves slowly.
“And which ten would you pick?” Elizabeth ignored the gazes of both men as they stared at her. Honestly, Mr. Eaves at the least should have seen this coming.
“Meself and Kitten here,” Mr. Eaves began. “Short Hands, Hob Roy, Tarkin, and Reeves for certain.”
“Hanger and Little Hun are quick,” added Mr. Kilten.
“Aye, them and Gilden and Louis.”
Elizabeth nodded slowly. Most of them were the ones she had picked in Port Royale. “Ask Telly and Thomas as well.”
“Ask them if they want more than twenty pence a day.” She turned finally and looked each of them in the eye. “I’m offering any man who’ll join me a full share in anything we come across.”
“Piracy,” Kitten breathed, and Elizabeth gave him a sharp look and a wry grin.
“Freedom,” she returned. “And vengeance.”
“And you mean to be captain?” said Mr. Eaves, looking far too calm and with half a mind to challenge her. Elizabeth didn’t flinch from his gaze; instead she swaggered closer and let her knife slip into her hand. Mr. Eaves didn’t back away either.
“I was Pirate King of the Brethren Court when we declared war on Lord Beckett. I fought on the Black Pearl when she met the Flying Dutchman in battle. I was there when we destroyed the Endeavor. I arranged for this ship to be bought and repaired, crewed with pirates who had escaped the East India Trading Company, paid and provisioned for the return voyage to Port Royale. I am Captain. Unless you want me to unman you here and now.” As she spoke, her hand had risen without Mr. Eaves’s awareness, shocked as he was by her speech, until she had her knife in a sensitive region. “Any questions?”
Mr. Eaves shook his head quickly.
“Good,” said Elizabeth, stepping back with deliberate care. “Will you join me?”
“Aye!” Kitten answered first, his eyes startled and respectful.
“Aye,” Mr. Eaves seconded more softly.
“Good.” Elizabeth stepped back and smiled, showing her teeth. “See about getting us a crew,” she ordered and took out a purse with the last of her trinket money. “And I do believe Captain Fitzpatrick failed to arrange for rum.” She handed the purse to Kitten. “We sail before first light.”
The two men smirked, excitement clearly beginning to take them in its grip. “Aye, Miss . . . Captain Swann,” said Mr. Eaves.
“Captain Turner,” Elizabeth corrected him, a shiver of wonder mingling with the sharp pang of loss at being able to say those two words together. The men nodded and didn’t question the change of name.
After they left, Elizabeth went first to her small cabin to change into a set of Will’s old clothing and pull on boots more suitable for a ship. She braided her hair and added her knife and sword to her belt, pulling a coat on over everything. The chest was safely nestled at the bottom of the trunk but Elizabeth would need to find a suitable place for it soon. She felt the soft thu-thump when she placed her hand on the seas scarred wood. “I wish you were here,” she said. Being at sea would be have to be close enough.
Elizabeth went to the main cabin next and rummaged around until she found the navigational charts and spent the night plotting and planning where to go next. It was a heady feeling to be able to decide her own course, and the long hours went by unnoticed until the sounds of drunken sailors clamoring aboard broke the spell.
“You said there was extra pay for comin’ back,” one of them grumbled loudly. “There ain’t nothin’ here.”
Elizabeth took that as her cue. She let the door bang behind her as she strode on deck “There’s this ship,” she said into the sudden silence. All eyes were upon her, startled, until one of the sailors said uncertainly, “I know you.”
“You all know me. I told most of you of the openings on Fitzpatrick’s crew, and I’ve spoken with all of you on passage from Port Royale.” With the sailors more confused now than before, she added, “I’m Captain Elizabeth Turner, and I mean to take this ship to pillage, plunder, and steal my measly black guts out. I’m offering all of you a full share.”
“Piracy?” one voice piped up with a note of hope.
She swaggered among them, a grin hovering about her lips. “Piracy,” Elizabeth confirmed.
“But you’re a woman!” said another scornfully from near the mast. A second later, Elizabeth’s knife was quivering by his head.
“And I missed on purpose,” she said, stalking closer. “You don’t want to join me, fine, crawl back to Fitzpatrick and tell him you were scared off by a woman pirate who just made off with his ship. If you join me, I promise you a full share of whatever we take, be it from a merchant or the East India Trading Company. The Company persecuted the pirates of these waters. They have grown fat and complacent. Ripe for the taking.” She paused and scanned an eye over her potential crew. They were bright enough to escape the Company, and hopefully bright enough to see the benefits of her deal. “Who’s with me?”
There was a long pause, then Mr. Eaves stepped forward. “I am, Captain,” he said followed by Kitten. The dam broken, the others spoke up, two looking more reluctant than happy, but all joined.
“Excellent.” Elizabeth held back the relieved grin from her face as if she had never expected another outcome. The grim gray of false dawn shadowed the sky. “Make sail,” she ordered. “I want us gone at first light.”
Elizabeth’s first mutiny occurred two hours after dawn and well beyond the sight of land. She had been looking through the stores with Mr. Eaves whom she was thinking of naming first mate, when a commotion above made them exchange a glance and make for the stairs. Louis, Tarkin, and Hanger were waiting for them. Elizabeth barely had time to register the fight that had split her new crew before she slammed her boot into the foot of the man who grabbed her and knocked away his pistol through his scream of pain. Her sword was out and blood spattered the deck. The fight stopped at once as everyone stared in shock at Louis screaming in agony, his guts spilling out, and Elizabeth with her sword and too much adrenaline to make her look anything but calm.
She took a deep breath. “Anyone else who would like the captaincy is free to get a weapon and challenge me here and now. I warn you, you will be dead before Louis is, but I promise to make it quick.” No one moved. “Mr. Eaves,” she barked.
“Yes, Cap’n!” he returned sharply.
“You’re my first mate. Send this mutinous scum to Will Turner’s Locker.”
“Cap’n? It’s Davy Jones’s Locker,” he turned confused eyes to her, probably wondering if she was mad on top of murderous.
“Davy Jones’s is no more,” she replied. “Do as I say. Tarkin, Hanger,” she snapped not waiting for an answer. The two unfortunate coconspirators immediately answered. “Clean up this mess and remember well the smell of blood. Next time it will be yours.”
“The rest of you, back to work!”
A mad scramble followed as none of her sailors wished to be noticed. Fear and startlement were fresh in their eyes, these men who had hidden instead of fought. No matter, they would learn.
Elizabeth quelled the queasiness left by the smell of blood by force of will and went to the helm where Short Hands was at the wheel. Their heading was for Tortuga where they would find additional sailors and weapons, and maybe some paint to rechristen the ship.
“Cap’n,” said Short Hands warily when she came up beside him.
The Lady’s Slipper was Fitzpatrick’s doomed vessel. The Locket would be hers. The smile that spread across Elizabeth’s face was fierce and free. She had a ship and crew and the open ocean before her. She wished desperately that Will was with her, but that wouldn’t stop her from living the life she was meant to lead.
“We’re devils, we’re black sheep, we’re really bad eggs,” she sang softly. “Drink up, me ‘earties, yo ho!”