|Even as gravity has its way with him, Jack Sparrow's working on the tale that he'll tell. He may play the fool, but it's a role like any other, and he never lets it take him over. Let them laugh, let them mock, but they'll remember him. Leave 'em with half a sentence, half a farewell, and they'll always be wondering, waiting for the punchline. Waiting to find out how it all ends. Jack's not ashamed to admit that he's intrigued, too, by the legend he's living. Wants to see how it comes out: but not, damn it, quite yet.|
|He's come back from Hell not once but twice, though both times the trip's been courtesy of someone else. His magic isn't his own, and what he uses isn't strictly magic. But you don't go visiting Hell without bringing something out again: and what Barbossa's brought with him this time is knowledge. It's not book-learning, either, but knowledge that lets him live and breathe, eat and drink, more alive than he's been these last ten years. That magic's a part of him now, rustling in his breath, running in his blood, sizzling in the marrow of his weathered bones.|
|Her home's a house of tree and vine and bone, neither on land nor on water, hidden in the deep green of the bayou above the river's tidal limit. She misses the sea, but the river brings her other gifts. Here's a petitioner come to plead: the men he brings with him are pirates, more or less, but that doesn't mean that they're not players. Young Will Turner has a touch of destiny: Jack Sparrow and fate, though, are more intimately entwined. The inkwork on her skin smudges with Sparrow's closeness, and with a secret that's not hers to tell.|
|From the age of fourteen Elizabeth Swann has been the hostess at her father's entertainments. She's sat through many a solemn, heavy dinner, surrounded by red-faced men and their heat-dazed wives, all dressed for the Court of Saint James and dining on roast beef in the heat of the tropical night. She had confidently expected to lay aside the duties of a daughter and assume those of a wife. The thought of conjugal duties brings a warm, heavy glow inside. For now she's nothing. She hasn't seen her father for weeks, and her fiancé barely speaks to her.|
|No good can come of this regime that permits currency to trump honour in the great game of Empire. Weatherby Swann knows what his people are being saved from: recalls unnatural horrors rampaging through Port Royal. He did his best to be wise, and just, and merciful. Look at him now! His pride sold for Elizabeth's sake, his dreams in ruins, his nerves in tatters. Always listening for a whisper of news, a word he's not supposed to hear. Can the blacksmith's boy save his daughter? Can poor broken Norrington? Or must they all trust to that pirate for salvation?|
|Time was he'd sailed with a mortal captain. Simple times. Bill Turner's been a dead man walking. He serves now under a man who has no heart. Bill doesn't much care. He's above water, most of the time. He has eighty-nine years yet to live. One night last month, Bootstrap Bill paid a visit to the Pearl, to tell his old friend that the debt's fallen due. He's seen Jack Sparrow left to die, long ago: now he hears that Jack's truly dead, by Davy Jones' Leviathan and his own bloodyminded nature. He'll believe it when he sees it.|
|It's not a triangle, nor a square. A pyramid, perhaps, with Elizabeth its pinnacle, on her pedestal (or toppling from it) and the three of 'em all focussed on her. But no, there's more to it than that. There's Jack's yen for the young and strong, and his admiration for an equal. There's Will learning that there's more to life (to love) than fairytale romance. And there's James, free and reckless, seeing possibilities that he'd have been blind to a year ago. There's admiration and exasperation, lust and blood lust, cross purposes and crossed blades. Elizabeth wants a way in.|
|A ship's freedom, all right, but some ships are freer than others. The Black Pearl is a bridge from anywhere to everywhere, a magical conveyance that'll carry her captain (if she cares for him) wheresoe'er he list. She'll buck and bolt, though, if the hand at her helm isn't her true master, bound to her with blood and more. Like an enchanted carpet, like a horse with eight legs, she'll carry a man from one world to another if he only knows the rules. Her keel, her timbers know which way is home. Her sails tauten in Hell's hot air.|
|Year on year, the world tests Will Turner's strength. Growing to manhood he was tried by poverty, by illness, by loneliness and loss. He bent, but did not break. In the last couple of years, he's been tempered by hopeless love, and then by hope. (Not to mention cursed pirates, predatory whores and the friendship of Captain Jack Sparrow.) His sword's good steel, his heart is true, his body's lithe and muscular. Sometimes that's not enough. Now he has to find another kind of strength: the strength to watch Elizabeth and yet do nothing, say nothing, go on as before.|
|Sometimes he recalls a life before, when he sailed the broad oceans under the flag of Portugal. His second life began where that one ended: here on the deck of the Dutchman. He's served his century long since, but he stays. Some in his Captain's service are taken by the sea, but Wyvern was claimed by the ship herself, and now he's one with her. He doesn't think much, any more, about how it feels. He thinks, or dreams, of past and future. Like a riddle, he's further from the ship than those sailors who still walk free on deck.|
|Life's but a headlong flight from one state to another, a risky business, precarious and precipitous. What goes around comes around, and is gone again if it's not seized instanter. A man must run to stand still, and if he stands atop his fortune then, when the wheel turns again, he'll fall. With each revolution the balance changes. And all around the world blurs into one bright green-blue whirl, a flash of a familiar face, a distant sound of laughter. A man can step aside from that Wheel: step outside of life. Few choose that fortune: they're too busy living.|
|Justice, say learned men, is blind: but Cutler Beckett sees with perfect clarity into the dark places in men's hearts and minds. The justice he dispenses is illuminatory, be it fiery or sharp or terminally short and sudden. Criminals, in Beckett's long experience, often trust in human fallibility to disguise their crimes. He still remembers the cold fury in his heart when he heard that Jack Sparrow'd disappeared from under the noses of his agents. That won't be permitted to happen again. Lord Cutler Beckett will use whatever he must -- myth, superstition, gullibility -- to drag Sparrow out into the light.|
|Falling again, unravelling rope like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, Jack finds a moment to reflect: for time seems dreamy slow, a plunge through water rather than air. Thought he was a god, did they? A forgivable mistake, though not an entirely explicable one. Jack can't help but wonder if the Pelegostos -- with all their secret wisdom, exotic hallucinogens, et cetera -- know something that he doesn't.
Would he know, if he were a god? Would his wishes come true? He tests this hypothesis by wishing he could stop falling.
The rope snags, jerking him to a sudden stop.
|There's ways and ways to cheat Death. Jack knows plenty. There's being born immortal: he's tested that one, and despite what they say about his mother, there's not a scrap of truth in it. There's being cursed by heathen gods: done that, and din't much care for it. There's being spat back out by Hell (a better place for being so picky about the gentlemen it admits). There's cutting out your own tender crimson heart to keep it safe: but where's safer than an ivory cage of bone? And there's going through the door, and coming out the other side.|
|Thirty years of patience, fortitude and temperance have brought James Norrington as low as he can go. There's a strange addicting flavour to each breath of Tortuga's graveolent air: the taste of freedom, the bittersweet flavour of selfishness, the sour taste of his own resignation. Not to mention (and James Norrington never does mention) the rum. Elizabeth had the right of it: rum does turn good men into scoundrels. Norrington drinks deep. He's learning to enjoy the taste of liberty, the rush of recklessness that drives him on, these days. What he craves most, though, is license to be free.|
|The Devil loves a good tune. Whether it's the small precise notes of the music box she gave him at their last farewell, or the crashing chords of the organ with its keys and pipes of human bone, he loves to hear music. Music echoes where his heart once was: where that heart lies now, he doesn't know, and that not-knowing is an ache. He no longer wants, or loves, or aches for anything with half the passion that the dying men on deck have for life. It doesn't matter. He need not be tempted, in order to tempt.|
|This ancient fortress is a terrible place. The crows are fat and fearless, the prisoners gaunt and mad with despair. Some of them have been here a lifetime: some for longer. In the deepest cells, not even Time can reach a man until he's served his time. Only a fool would come anywhere near the stark Anatolian headland where waves lash the prison's foundations. Only a madman would break into this place. Yet here's a stranger, whispering in corners, slipping from shadow to cellar to cell. Wants a key, rumour has it, but who'd seek a key inside a prison?|
|Jack would laugh if he could spare the breath. All those years following the damned compass, setting his course by it, looking to it whenever he lacked direction or purpose. Lately, though, it hasn't been playing fair. It's spun wild, showing him what he can't have or doesn't want or, frankly, thinks more trouble than it's worth. Now, out here on the open water, the compass is random as ever. It doesn't matter. Jack can find his own bearing. He knows what he wants now. The needle of his heart points true, and the broken compass matters not a jot.|
|Raised from the depths not once but many a time, 'tis no wonder that she's mad and mazed. She yearns for cool deep darkness: loathes the sun. Any man who comes aboard is changed: every man (no woman may walk here) whose blood spills on her deck. The moon calls to her as it calls the tides. Other ships sail over the sea: are assailed by its storms and terrors. The Flying Dutchman is of the sea, a part of it, coral-boned and kelp-sailed and savage as sharks.
A jealous mistress, too: her Captain may love no other.
|All gods die in the end: old gods die hardest. They linger until the last of their believers goes to his long home, or eternal rest, or own private Hell. No matter if they're never worshipped, in this degenerate age: it's enough that they've altered the lives of those yet living. There are scarred hands, lingering memories of blood, weathered bones beneath requickened flesh, to prove the powers of the heathen gods ... though none recall their names. Still, they've an agent in these waters, and an interest in his games. They watch and wait as he reclaims what's theirs.|
|Already they're refining the legend of Jack Sparrow. He died so they would live. Or: he didn't die, but just moved on. Or: he's sailing the Styx now, chatting with old Charon, steering his darling ship over still dark water that dissolves all memory. It's for them to remember him: for them to pass judgement on his life and his death. Outside in the green twilight, candles burn to light Jack Sparrow's way. Inside, they talk of him (but really of themselves). Or: they speak aloud but hoard their truths (a pirate, a good man, my friend, my match) unsaid.|
|The map's blank edges are being filled with careful inkwork, with steep-roofed cities, azure rivers, compass roses that point only North. It's no longer a world without limits, but neither is it a world that is -- that can ever be -- fully known. There's room yet for pirates and vagabonds, myths and archetypes and atavisms. Room for legends old and new. The mapmakers and natural philosophers, the architects of empires, can't have the whole world for themselves, not while the likes of Jack Sparrow live and thrive in the shadows, the stories, the spaces between what's understood and what's real.|