A day in Tortuga could last a sailor a life time, for the seedy port was brimming with pirates and criminals of all manners, teeming together in the humid Caribbean air trying to outwit and outlast not only their numerous enemies, but each other as well. The opportunities for adventure and disaster were equal in measure and plentiful for all. But a month in the salt crusted port had left one sailor in worse shape than he had arrived.
That morning, Hector woke, stiff and aching, huddled into the back corner of a building, sheltered from the sun and the rain and any prying eyes by a discarded bit of broken wood that he had propped over him to make a lean-to. His clothes were dirty and worn, stiff with salt and sweat. His stomach rumbled with lack of sustenance, followed by the immediate queasy feeling from too much drink.
As his head cleared from the fog of his dream, he came to recognize the hell he had become so acquainted with over these long weeks, and was again reminded that this pitiless existence was his punishment for daring too much, for wanting more than fate had allotted him. Sao…how could Sao do this to him?
It was a question he had asked himself countless times but never found the answer to. It went around and around in his skull like a churning melody he couldn’t forget, one moment blaming himself and the next blaming his former lover. But Hector knew he had brought this upon himself…Sao had given him everything, helped to shape him into the man he was. He’d be lost long ago were not for the other man’s kindness that saved him from drowning, and again from the quatermaster’s lash…Sao had loved him. And Hector had repaid that love with ungratefulness. If he had just listened…done as he was told, stopped trying to go off on his own.
If he gave up his freedom, he would have had everything.
“Damn him…” he muttered, scrubbing his hands across his burning eyes in a bitter, exhausted manner, feeling an angry sob attempt to crawl up his throat. But he swallowed it back down, hard.
After a few moments of convincing himself, the ragged man managed to find enough will to crawl from his spot and stand, stretching his stiff muscles and taking in the lay of the land. The sun had been up for hours already, but wasn’t high in the sky quite yet. The port was often slow and quiet at this hour, as a good deal of its residents were still sleeping off the night before.
He moved from the cloistered back lot of the blacksmith’s shop and made his way up the alley towards the main road. From this spot on the hill he could look down and see the whole of the harbor and all the ships that had docked there during wee hours of the night. There were not many to speak of, mostly the same few that had been lingering there for a week or more already and handful of smaller boats that had swept in under the cover of fog. These most likely belonged to defectors and escapees from naval and merchant ships, as Tortuga was one of the few places that provided refuge for them.
One ship caught Hector’s eye then. This one was a mighty galleon, baring a Jolly Roger that he had seen on the horizon from time to time, but never up close. The Captain was rumored to be one of the fabled Brethren Court, the Pirates that controlled various parts of the ocean as keepers of The Code.
He kept his eyes on the ship for a moment, then turned away with a sneer and walked up the road. Keepers of The Code be damned; he had seen just exactly how much said “code” meant to them. A loose set of bylaws and declarations that were swept aside whenever it was deemed fit to. He had no more time for such things.
His stomach clenched and rolled again and as he walked he suppressed a wave of dizziness that threatened to put him on his face in the mud. He caught himself on the corner of a building and doubled over, spitting onto the ground as he tried to vomit, but his stomach had nothing to give up but bile and water.
It only made the hunger pains worse and the destitute sailor cursed and whimpered quietly to himself as he struggled for control. How had he come to this? Wasn’t it just a few short weeks ago he was first mate aboard one of the most feared vessels in the South China Sea. He had fought sea creatures, seen the green flash at world’s end, and even lived to tell the tale of a kraken encounter. His name was feared in those ports off China, Japan and Malaysia. But now, here he stood…abandoned and cast off from the only world he’d ever felt at home in. Even as an outsider.
Finally gathering his composure and wiping his mouth on his sleeve, the red head struggled to steady his breathing as well as his shaking knees and reached inside his belt, feeling the handle of his pistol there. Not for the first time in these long weeks did he consider turning the barrel upon himself and being done with it all.
But he stopped, frowning at the idea. That would be just what Sao wanted, to know that he couldn’t survive on his own, that his life wasn’t worth living without him. That he was just as useless and helpless as his former lover had come to make him feel over their last few months of their partnership. And Hector wasn’t about to give that self-important bastard the satisfaction of being right.
Someone knocked against him then, nearly sending him forward onto his knees. “Dah! Watch where yer goin’!” he snapped, turning to look at the offender, only to see him shuffle hurriedly past him without looking back.
Hector sneered again and righted himself, checking his pockets and then stiffened when he felt that the last of his coins had been lifted from his belt. “Son of a bitch!” He took off at a run after the man ahead of him.
The pick-pocket of course, sensed that he had been caught in the act, and was now dashing through the more heavily crowded market ahead, with the younger pirate bellowing after him. Although here and there passerby’s would stop to gander at the skeptical, none lifted a finger to assist. There were no laws against such crimes in Tortuga, it was every pirate for themselves. Disputes, robberies and other offenses were handled between crews and their captains, and poor Hector, with neither, had only himself to rely on.
The pick pocket was sure that he had lost Hector in the throng, and paused in a narrow alley way to look over his spoils. The pock-faced man, with a shock of greasy black hair and only a handful of teeth left, opened the top of the small leather coin purse to find there were only two sad shillings inside, not even enough to buy a watery pint of rum.
He groaned in disgust, thinking he was the one that had been had, until a pair of fists grabbed him by the collar of his coat, yanked him around and shoved him against the wall, a gun barrel forced up against his nose.
“Oy! Easy with that!”
“You picked the wrong mark,” the paler man muttered, leering up at him with glassy, blood shot blue eyes, “Give it back and I won’t open an extra hole in that thick skull of yers,”
The pick-pocket chortled and tossed the coin purse to the ground at his feet. “Here, take it. Waste of my time, honestly.”
Keeping the gun trained on him, Hector reached to grab it before someone else could. But this move was an immediate mistake, for the next moment the man had lifted his knee and brought it up harshly into Hector’s gut.
With a cry, the man toppled backward, only to have the pick-pocket grab him by the shoulders and slam his head into the cobble stones. The blow knocked him dizzy, making the world around him spin and blink in and out of view as he laid sprawled there. Rough, dirty hands were patting him down, shifting through his clothing for more valuables that might have been missed. He groaned, trying to push the man away, only to have his hand snatched forward, his wrist twisted sharply, making him cry out again.
“Ooh, would you look at that! How’d I miss this little pretty before?” The man was eyeing the large jade dragon crested ring on his hand. He pulled it off and turned it over in his grasp. “Now this! This is a bauble worth fightin’ over, boy! Fetch a nice price to the right buyer, real jade is hard to come by and this crest…belongs to a pirate lord, does it not?” He grinned, showing more of his remaining rotten teeth and blackened gums. “Bit a thief yourself eh?”
Hector was pushing himself up again, though his head was spinning, fumbling for his lost weapon. “Give it here, or I’ll—“
“You’ll what exactly?” The man knocked him flat again and put his foot over his throat, pressing down so that Hector had to grapple and push back to keep his throat from being crushed. “No one’s coming to save ya, lad.”
Then, quite abruptly, the man’s weight shifted back and Hector realized he wasn’t about to be murdered. He looked up in surprise to find his assailant tugged awkwardly backward, a deeply tan arm thrown around his throat and a glittering knife point pressed harshly to the soft place beneath his chin.
“That’ll do there, mate. Now I think that you ought to be givin’ my friend back his ring, savvy?”
Hector wriggled his way out from under the mugger’s boot, getting to his feet as gracefully as he could muster and aimed the pistol once more at his attacker’s face. But his eyes shifted to the newcomer, who continued to hold the fiend at knife point. He was shorter in stature than Hector, and indeed much shorter than their captive. He had a head of thick, wild black hair, and a short goatee that framed his mouth in the same ebony shade. His eyes were dark, but bright with a sort of impish delight, and across his forehead was a wide swath of scarlet that just managed to keep the bushy tangle of hair out of his eyes.
He’d never seen the man before, but that wasn’t so rare at the frequency ships came and went. Yet the other acted as though they were old chums.
“Alright mate?” the other man asked, eyes briefly meeting Hector’s as he attempted to keep the squirming man in front of him still.
Hector nodded mutely in reply and reached out and snatched his ring back from the scrawny thief’s hand, returning it to its proper place on his own.
“Good! Now then, how about you scuttle back to whatever rock you crawled out from under, and my friend and I will let you keep your head, eh?”
The dark-haired man released him with a shove, and the pick-pocket scrambled away at a run, cursing and spitting as he went. Hector watched him for a moment, and then glanced curiously back to his new companion, who was looking rather pleased with himself.
He chuckled and nudged Hector with his elbow, showing that he had in fact picked the pick-pocket’s own purse, which appeared to be nearly full to bursting. “I think that poor blighter isn’t quite done learning his lesson just yet. Sure he’ll be cursing the pair of us even more when he realizes that he’s just bought a round of drinks.”
“Who the hell are you?” Hector muttered, not letting go of his weapon and looking him up and down as if trying to make sense of him.
The man next to him looked mildly aghast and then grinned charmingly, “Why my dear man, you see before you the terror of the Caribbean, the elusive and illustrious prince of the seas, Jack Sparrow?”
He seemed to think that Hector would at once recognize his name, but the red head merely blinked and continued to frown for a moment before shaking his head. “Ne’er heard of ya, sorry.” He muttered.
The youth deflated a little, his charming devilish grin fading into a look of mild dismay, his large dark eyes widening in a way that was almost as endearing as it was pitiful. “Oh.” He mumbled, then shook off his disappointment and looped his arm around Hector’s. “Well, now you have! And I must say it is your lucky day, considering the scrape you were in. Lucky I happened along when I did.”
The taller man shook him off, not wanting to be touched by the over enthusiastic youth. “Aye, but yer help weren’t necessary. I had ‘im right where I wanted ‘im.”
Jack blinked at him a moment and then began to shake with laughter, much to Hector’s chagrin. “Oh really? Well, apologizes if I intruded upon your clever plan to get yerself murdered in broad day light. I was considering sharing this loot with you, but since you don’t need my help, I’ll just be taking it for my trouble…”
Hector reached out and grabbed the man by the shoulder, cocking the pistol at him this time.
“Ah,” Jack said quietly, though he didn’t particularly look worried. “I thought that might be the case.”
“Listen here, whelp, I don’t need any charity from the likes of a pompous little blow fish like yourself…” but the words had no sooner fumbled their way to his lips when his vision began to swim again, his stomach clenched around nothing, and his head throbbed violently. He watched as Jack’s eyes went from vaguely amused to alarmed as his knees gave out and he sunk towards the cobblestones.
As his gun clattered from his hand, the smaller man reached under his arms and caught him, keeping him from dashing his skull against the rocks again. “Oy! Easy there! What’s the matter with you?”
Jack grappled with the taller, lankier man until he got his arm around his waist, pulling Hector’s limp arm around his shoulder and carried nearly fainted man further down the alley until they were firmly out of the sun. He eased the wilting sailor down on an old crate just outside the back door of a small tavern, who’s door had been left ajar to allow the steam and heat from the kitchens out.
He propped the limp man against the wall and then turned hurriedly to the open door, ducking his head inside, shouting something that Hector didn’t quite catch in his dazed, hazy state. There were several moments of muffled arguing, followed by a woman screeching and the clangs of pots and pans and then Jack reappeared, clutching a loaf of bread and a pitcher of water as a rather disgruntled chicken flapped over his head. “Alright, alright! You don’t have to be so bloody rude about it! And I never laid a hand on her, I’ll have you know!” he shouted back to someone inside.
Hector tried to push himself to his feet again, but the tan skinned sailor’s hand came against his chest and pressed him back, moving to sit on the crate next to him. “Steady as she goes, mate. Yer not goin’ anywhere like this, ‘cept maybe to an early grave. Have a drink.”
He held the pitcher up to Hector and helped him tip it back, watching him guzzle it greedily like a man dying of thirst. He drank the lot of it without hardly coming up for a breath, and when he was finished he laid back, more exhausted than before, but seeming to have revived all the same.
“Aye…” Hector mumbled thickly.
Jack broke the bread in half and handed him his piece. “Go on. From the look of you, you need it.”
The other man accepted it hesitantly, for a moment fearing that this was some sort of trick on the other man’s behalf. But maybe it was Jack’s smile, or Hector’s own apparent starvation, but his needs outweighed his fear at that moment, and he tore into the bread like a ravenous thing, scarfing down thick mouthfuls of it.
Jack’s eyes widened at the display, and when the red-head glared back at him, he politely looked away, sinking his teeth into the crust of his own meal. “It is good…nice not to have to pick out any bugs.” He mused.
His companion ignored him and Jack glanced back towards his hand, at the large jade dragon ring that adorned it. But, that wasn’t the starving man’s only accoutrement. He wore another ring as well, this one gold and ruby, with the crest of a lion, though it looked dirt caked and mildly tarnished, which was probably why their pick-pocket hadn’t noticed it first.
“A lion and a dragon,” Jack mused. “Now there’s a winning pair right there. Sends the right message certainly; stand in my way and you’ll be eaten.”
Only now did the other man glance up, brushing the crumbs from his own scruffy facial hair. “Is that what it says to you, little sparrow?” there was almost a smile in the corner of his lips as he spoke, and indeed it grew instantly when Jack’s cheeks went red.
“Little?!” he gawked.
Hector chuckled softly, “Apologizes. I meant no offense.”
Jack huffed and shoved another chunk of bread into his mouth. “I may not bear the crest of a pirate lord, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a threat. Little indeed…” he muttered, and Hector smiled more behind his mouthful of bread.
“And how is it ye be knowing about the pirate lords and their marks, might I ask?”
“Ah well, I’ve known a few in my time.” Jack answered smoothly. “Been all over the world, I have, from the shores of the Americas to the mysteries of the China Sea.”
“You callin’ me a liar?”
“Of course, but that’s no reason to assume what I’m telling you right now is a lie.”
Hector rolled his eyes, shoving the last few bites of his meal into his mouth and swallowing hard. His stomach ached with the sudden fullness, but he didn’t care. This pain was easier to bear than the other.
“Have it your way,” he replied, studying the other sailor carefully.
“So, how is it you came by that ring?” Jack asked, looking at the large jade jewel with wide, fascinated eyes. Reflexively the other man closed his hand over it, pull them close to his chest.
“It…was a gift.” He mumbled. Saying just that much made Hector’s heart twinge and made his eyes sting. Damn him for a soft fool, still shedding tears over the callous prick that left him to rot in this place. His sadness turned at once to anger and he grit his teeth, yanking the item from his hand and hurling it away, watching it clatter across the stones for a moment, then got to his feet, much to his and Jack’s surprise.
“It was kind of ya to help me, Sparrow, but I’m afraid you wasted yer time. I’ll be on my way, as I’m sure you must as well.”
He started off towards the street, though his steps were slow and calculated for fear that he might fall again. Jack watched him go, and only when he turned the corner did he get up and go to the place where the ring had fallen. He picked it up, turning it over in his hand. It truly was a pretty thing and for a moment he considered pocketing it and moving on. Yet a little voice at the back of his mind nagged at him. It wasn’t just the ring that had caught his eye; for its owner was just as fascinating.
And Jack, curious magpie he was, wanted to know more.
He followed Hector throughout the port, always staying out of sight and keeping a safe enough distance that the gangly redhead might not notice him right away. He watched as the other man drifted about, speaking to sailors as he passed—but only those that looked like they might have a higher rank among the ship’s crew. By and by, Jack realized the man was trying to barter passage aboard a ship, but he was continually turned away.
Hector barked in desperation, gripping the table in front of the man he was speaking to, who sat there with quill and paper, looking like he’d love nothing better than to be rid of the man in front him. “All I’m asking is for a chance to work! I have skill aboard a ship, I have sailed from Singapore to this godforsaken piss piece of rock, I know how to chart course, read maps, whatever you may need! I’m fluent in three languages, including Mandarin and Malay! I can help you! I’m more qualified to work this ship than most of the pigs you’ve taken aboard!”
“That may be all well and good lad,” the man, the ship’s quarter master from Jack’s guess replied. He was short and round in the belly, with dark hair and thick sideburns that did little to distinguish his features. He was sunburned and well dressed for his position, and he looked down his nose at Hector’s mud-spattered and unkempt appearance. “But, as I told ye before, I can’t use you.”
“Why the hell not!?” He slammed his fist down on the table, causing the ink well to spill and the quarter master to look that much more annoyed with him.
“On account of yer scars, son.” The man answered, rather crudely. “That one below yer eye there tells me you have a taste for getting yourself into trouble, and that tongue of yours is more proof. Besides, what is it you’re after in Nassau?”
“That’s my business.”
“Indeed. There’s a bloody war going on over there, pirates having fighting to take the island from the East India Trading Company, and it’s getting more bloody all the time. Spies on both sides selling out their Captains for a piece of silver or the promise of land…” he pulled a gun from under the table and cocked it lazily at Hector. “I may not be an honest sailor, my boy, but neither am I a fool. You’re not going anywhere near my ship.”
Hector swore at him again, but finally turned away, starting off down the street again. Now Jack’s interest was really peeked. What was it that the curious man was seeking in Nassau? As the quartermaster had said the port was an utter mess at the moment, and even his own father, Captain Teague would not venture into those tumultuous waters for the time being. Too many of their kind had been captured and hung by the English there, and even more were suffering at the hands of their own ilk as greed and internal politics threatened to put an end to what had been known as the Brethren Coast.
But as Jack pondered all this, he realized he had nearly lost sight of his mark and hurried to catch up with him, not daring to give up the chase. The stranger was the most interesting thing Jack had encountered since they’d arrived, and that was saying something as Jack loved Tortuga like a second home.
He followed the man’s shock of feathery red hair through the crowds, as Hector weaved in and out of the narrow, labyrinth like streets of the port town. Jack nearly lost him completely once or twice, but was always able to spot him again, even if it meant scrambling on top of walls to get a better view, or hoping on the back of a passing cart to speed himself a long.
But then, quite abruptly, he lost the man all together.
Jack stood blinking in the middle of the road, head whipping about from left to right, trying to figure how he had lost the man who had been in sights not but a moment before. It was if he had simple evaporated into thin air. For a moment, the young pirate felt a pang of defeat and fumbled with the discarded ring in his pocket. It seemed like his luck had run out. He fumbled through the folds of the sash that was tied around his waist, held in place by his belt, and from there lifted what appeared to be an antique compass. He studied it for a moment, and then began to turn away then, when a pair of hands reached out and yanked him from the road, dragging him through a darkened door way.
Jack attempted to scream for help, only to be tossed hard onto the floor, a pair of swords thrust towards him.
“Don’t move!” a voice commanded above him in English, though it was heavily accented with distinct Chinese.
“My friends,” Jack chuckled nervously, “I thought we talked about this before, I didn’ mean any harm! It was such a pretty vase is all, and I had no idea it belonged to Emperor…so and so.” He grinned sheepishly, hoping to appear harmless and disarming.
It didn’t work.
He was grabbed by the back of his shirt and dragged up to his feet, his hands yanked behind his back and bound with a thick length of rope that cut into his skin. “Listen mates, I know we got off on the wrong foot, but if your Captain would just talk to my Captain I’m sure we could clear all this up! There’s no sense in blood shed—“ he was punched hard in the mouth and then again in the stomach, effectively silencing him for the moment.
The men above him spoke in quick, harsh tones and Jack tried to piece together what they were saying from his own limited knowledge of the language, but it was lost on him. But, he needn’t have been fluent to understand what having a noose tied around his neck meant.
“Please! Gents! Let’s not be hasty! Parlay!” he crowed, though he was still choking from the earlier blow. “Oh damn you, don’t you understand what I’m saying to you!? Parlay! Parlay!!”
“Ting zhi!”* another voice commanded suddenly, causing all three men to look up in surprise. “Fàng kāi tā!”*
Jack’s watering eyes widened and he smiled with relief when he saw that standing in the doorway, sword in hand, was none other than the stranger he’d rescued before.
The men who had bound him, a pair of smugglers that Jack had encountered the evening before, blinked at the newcomer in speechless surprise for a moment. It seemed to dumbfound them that the words coming from the man’s mouth were of their own tongue; as it was more than rare for a westerner to speak their language, much less with any fluency.
They turned and spoke quickly to each other in surprised tones, until Hector barked something else at them again, and they once more turned to him, the largest of the pair stepping forward with his sword at hand.
“Who do you think you are?” the pirate muttered gruffly and Jack shouted behind him.
“Ha! I knew you understood me! You--!” he was given another smack in the mouth for his trouble before having a knotted rag shoved between his teeth to gag him.
“Belay that!” the interloper snapped to the other sailor, looking at him harshly. “Let the ‘im go, he’s a fool sure enough, but we both know that killing him will bring you no honor and if you’re caught your Captain will be the one who suffers for your miserable treachery.”
“And what do you know of our Captain?” the larger pirate, who was broad and wide and nearly three inches taller than Hector himself, sporting many intricate tattoos across his large chest and belly.
“I know he’s struck an accord with several English merchant vessels, and bought you and your crew safe passage past the navy’s blockade outside Cuba. A piece of information I might be obliged to divulged to the pirates crawling this port, who would be very interested to know they had a navy spy among them.”
“Am I? Test me if you’re so sure. But if you kill that man you’ll soon find you wish you had traded places with him when yer Captain keelhauls ye.”
The two sailors looked at each other nervously and began to argue again in their native tongue, but Hector just rolled his eyes, reached into his belt, pulled out his pistol and shot the rope from the smaller man’s hand, taking one of his fingers with it.
The man screamed as blood spurted from the wound, and the distraction allowed Jack enough room to wiggle free from the noose around his neck and roll to the side as Hector’s blade clashed with the tattooed sailor’s.
The larger man bore down on him with rage, but Hector, for all his early weakness, showed surprising vigor and skill with a sword, successfully parrying every thrust and deftly avoiding having his head removed from his shoulders.
From the sidelines, Jack watched all this in growing awe, for this was a display of sword technique he was not familiar with, and even the way that Hector moved during the duel spoke of a man who had been trained in combat arts far from the teachings of the average Englishman. He soon managed to wriggle himself free from the knots that bound his hand, and spit the gag from his mouth, grabbing his own sword and joined the fray.
Now with two swords set against him, the Chinese sailor looked simultaneously enraged and dubious. But surrender seemed to be far from his mind. His companion, having taken up his own sword in his bloody hand, charged forward, but Jack dispatched him quickly, tripping the man and sending him crashing into the wall of the empty shop and overturning a rather large, heavy shelf upon himself.
“Where did you learn to fight?” Jack called excitedly next to Hector, as he dodged another swing of the man’s long thin sword that was aimed at his chest.
“Where did you learn to fight?!” Jack called again. “You’re wonderful! I mean, your posture is a bit off, but otherwise—“
“I don’t think that now is the time for this!” the red head barked back, their enemy turning to bare down on him hard, driving him back against the wall, forcing Hector to flatten himself there and lift his legs, using them to kick out and strike the hulking pirate hard in gut, propelling him backward.
As he stumbled to right himself, Jack swung behind him, slashing him across the back of the knees and sending the man to the floor, flat on his back. The floorboards beneath him cracked audibly, raising a cloud of dust into the air.
In the aftermath Hector reached over and grabbed Jack by the wrist and tugged the man out the door, darting hurriedly down the street before their work could be discovered.
“Where are we going?” Jack gasped.
“Away from here, ya git! I’m not about to be caught by the rest of their crewmen. I doubt the rest of them are such drunken fools as to believe that little fairy tale I just made up.”
The tan skinned pirate dug his heels in, causing Hector to give pause, turning towards him. Looking back, he saw that Jack’s eyes were wide and sparkling with mirth. “You mean you made that bit about their captain being a double-dealing yeasty codpiece?”
He shrugged, “Well, yes.”
Sparrow erupted with laughter, holding his sides. He laughed so loud that Hector clapped a hand over his mouth and pulled him into the shade of a doorway to avoid drawing further attention to themselves.
“You’re quite clever, aren’t you mate?”
“It’s not exactly cleverness to assume that anyone in this port has something to hide.”
“Aye, but you have a point.” He tapped his finger to his head and then reached into his vest pocket and fished out Hector’s discarded ring. The blue-eyed man looked at it in surprise for a second and then snatched it back, his pale cheeks slightly pinker.
“It must mean something to you. And even if it didn’t, like the bugger said, jade is hard to come by.” He dusted himself off and leaned lazily back against the stone arch, “What do you call yourself, my friend?”
His companion was silent for a moment, seeming to ponder whether or not to answer, and then replied; “Me given name is Hector. Barbossa is what they call me here.”
“Ah,” Jack nodded, “On account of the hair I presume, and that sad bit of scruff you call a beard.”
Barbossa’s blue eyes flashed with indignity and his cheeks went pink again, and Jack could not help but continue to smile as a result. Something about the man’s indignant reactions to his brazenness trickled him.
“Alright, Jack Sparrow. Now that we’ve been formally introduced, why don’t you explain to me why it was you decided to follow me?”
Jack rolled his shoulders sheepishly, “Oh well…suppose it was just my kind hearted nature that compelled me to make sure you were well after your little fainting spell back there. Glad to see you’re fairly recovered.”
“Ah. How charitable of ye.” Hector muttered, eyeing the man with a cool gaze. “Now what’s the real reason?”
“As it so happens, I was looking for someone who could help me with a little problem of mine. Someone with special talents, as it were.”
“What sort of special talents?”
Jack looked around nervously, chewing his thumb nail as he scanned the crowd, then leaned closer to Hector, so much so that he was pressed against the other man’s chest. “Not here,” he whispered. “The walls have eyes.”
Barbossa raised an eyebrow and started to protest, but Jack had his wrist again and started pulling him along down the street, keeping stride behind a wagon that was carrying large barrels of rum.
“Where are you taking me?” Barbossa muttered, trying to shake free from the grip, but Jack didn’t seem to notice.
“Someplace where we won’t be overheard.”
“Don’t imagine such a place exists here.”
“Ye of little faith,” the smaller man smirked.
They followed the road for a mile or so until they came to an Inn that was perched on the craggy cliff overlooking the harbor below called “Siren’s Cove”. It was weathered and dilapidated from so many seasons of harsh winds and heavy sea spray, and it creaked and groaned in the breeze. Behind the Inn itself was a narrow, rocky stairway that wound and twisted its way down to the beach below, and here the pair could see several small camps and bond fires built.
The two young men entered the Inn through the heavy, warped front door, stepping out of the boiling sun into the dark shade of the drinking hall, which was clustered with tables filled with pirates in similar need of refuge. This time of day it was quieter, patrons quietly conducting their dealings while swilling gin and rum, and others seeking solitude until other businesses opened in the evening.
Jack did not give Hector much time to take stock of the place, instead tugging him insistently towards the back of the room to a table that was nearly shoved underneath the stairwell that lead to the rooms above. “I’ll buy us a round,” he explained, “and something to eat. Stay here, and don’t look at anyone.”
Hector rolled his eyes and scoffed quietly as Sparrow made hastily for the bar, though he was perfectly happy to comply with the advice. He eyed his new companion from the corner, noticing for the first time that the man was bare foot and nearly as ragged looking as he was, which could only mean that Jack was in a similar position of destitution or that he had just come to port after a long voyage. But in all his weeks drifting around this forsaken rock, Hector had never laid eyes on him before, so he must have been a fresh arrival.
He looked down at the rings on his hand, trying to figure out what the significance of all this was when Jack returned with two heavy pints of rum gripped in one hand, a large tray of bread, cheese and salted pork in the other.
The redhaired man heard his stomach rumble audibly at the sight and Jack nudged the plate towards him, “You eat, I’ll talk.”
Hector smirked at him, digging into the food with little reserve. “Somehow I think you begin a lot of conversations this way.”
Jack smiled but ignored him, and after giving the room another quick scan with his eyes, leaned in close to Barbossa to speak; “As it so happens, those gents you helped me dispatch back there were part of a larger difficulty I’ve been having lately. I know you were only joking about their Captain being a spy…but you may be closer to the truth than you thought.”
The other man raised an eyebrow as he drank from his tankard but said nothing. Accusing a man of spying for the crown was serious charge among pirates. It was not something that was spoken of lightly, even if friendly company.
“My Captain came into port late last evening, and he’s been worried that one of our fellow pirates have been feeding information to the English about ports such as these. He can’t prove anything yet, but I suspect as you said, it’s one of the other Captain’s who’s the rat.”
Barbossa considered this carefully as he ate, feeling the rum hit him a bit harder than expected after weeks of malnutrition. “And how does this involve me, as it were?”
“You said yourself you speak several languages. And people are often more inclined to freely discuss delicate details when they think they won’t be overheard by unfriendly ears.” Jack suggested.
The man across from him narrowed his blue eyes, then shrugged. “I don’t think it be the Chinese that have double crossed you. While you might have a few greedy enough to try, they don’t suffer the English more than they have to, and the Navy is twice as condescending towards their abilities as any of our ilk.” He replied.
Jack considered this carefully, nursing his own drink and having ignored the food for the most part. “Alright then, I suppose you have a point. But it doesn’t change that there’s a spy among us. How do I flush ‘im out?”
Hector smiled again in that smug manner and Jack found that it sent a thrill of annoyance through him each time. “And what is it ye have to offer me for puttin’ myself on the line in this little endeavor of yours?”
“A place on my ship.” Jack answered.
Hector choked down a bite of bread and had to clap a hand to his chest to get it down. “Your ship?” he sputtered.
“Aye. My ship. We’re bound for St. Martin once we leave here. The pay is good, and there’s bound to be an adventure or two in it for you. I might even be able to convince the Captain to make passage to Nassau…if you play your cards right.” He gave Barbossa his own devilish smile in return, leaning back in his chair, kicking his feet up on the table and draining the rest of his tankard in two easy gulps.
The pale copper haired man mused on this for awhile, but Jack knew he had him. The deal was too good to pass up, especially for someone like Hector, who hadn’t much to lose.
Finally, Hector held out his hand. “Aye, we have an accord.”
Jack sat up excitedly and grabbed his palm in his, only to be stunned when the taller man yanked him forward across the table, bringing him nearly nose to nose with him. “But mark my words, whelp. If this be some trickery of yours, I’ll make you sorry for it. Am I clear?”
The dark-haired pirate nodded, staring back into Hector’s pale blue eyes with a surety that was mystifying. “Clear as crystal mate, never fear.”