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Fire No Gun, Shed No Tear

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Once in a while, when night has fallen and the crew is mostly asleep below-decks, Davy Jones will go up to his first mate manning the helm and ask, "How many years have you left, sir?"

For the past decade, the answer has been, "One." Nothing more. Maccus doesn't even look away from the horizon when he says it; Jones must contend with his shark's eye, silvered and passionless. 

Lately, Maccus has grown sore regarding his service. Two years previously, he replied, "Two hundred, give or take," through rows of gritted teeth, as he tried to harry an ailing East Indiaman into the open ocean. The year before, standing resolute during a hellcat of a storm, he affected not to hear Jones. 

Now, with a placid sea before them and no ship to chase, Maccus cannot give cheek or feign ignorance. If he feels trapped, it is the entrapment of a beetle caught in a child's cupped hands. Letting Jones see only his flat shark-eye, he replies, "I do not remember, Captain."

"Is that so." Jones puts his pipe to his lipless mouth and draws on it slowly. His first mate takes no notice of him. Out of all his crewmen, this is the only one he cannot intimidate. Releasing the smoke through his gills, he continues, "You have sailed with me longer than most. I should have thought you would chafe to be released from your bondage. Don't you dream of passing on to the next kingdom? You must be curious to see it, after all this time."

Maccus's human hand tightens on the wheel. The lobster embedded in his back twitches its legs. "My place is here on the Dutchman," he says quietly. "The next kingdom, as you call it, must mind its own affairs'." 

Jones realises that he will never win this cruel game of his; not with Maccus. Any other man would eventually snap and win himself a hundred lashes, but Maccus will not snap, because he does not know he is being taunted.

"At ease, man," he mutters, and hobbles away, stumping down the steps onto the main deck in search of a softer target. He turns back for a moment.

His first mate still stands at the helm, his head raised to examine the stars with his one front-facing eye. To the untrained observer, it would seem as though Jones was nothing more than a breeze that lisped against the torn shreds of his shirt. The lobster, though, has stopped twitching.

He discourages the crew from swapping stories about who they were before, for it never leads anywhere good. They become maudlin and resentful, or fall into despair and hurl themselves from the mainmast. Still, he cannot watch them all at once. During the long days when they wait for a becalmed ship to run out of provisions, they often gossip.

Maccus is the second-greatest mystery of the crew, after Jones himself. He never talks about who or what he used to be before pledging himself to the Dutchman, which only makes him an object of greater fascination. Jones, watching him try to ignore the pestering, wishes that he would make up some bit of a tale that would satisfy them. Then again, Maccus's honesty is part of what led to his becoming first mate. He never lies. He never disobeys an order. He never says a word beyond what is required of him.

When the water runs out on the doldrumed caravel, and the last survivor collapses in the hold, and the Dutchman has picked through the dead and the dying for potential recruits, the call at last goes up to return to the sea. The crew comes to life, unfurling the sails and hoisting the anchor which keeps them afloat. Jones raps his cane once upon the deck, and the ship slides back beneath the waves with a great soughing sigh.

Within days of gliding half a league below the surface, they forget the difference between air and water. Since they cannot speak, they get along better, relaying simple orders through a peculiar morse code of bubbles blown through the gills. The creatures of the deep are not like living men; they love to swim beside the rotting ship and play with her cursed crew. Dolphins bring them morsels of fish, and humpback whales let them run what is left of their hands across their vast, smooth hides. When the whales sing to their far-off wives, Jones accompanies them on his organ, and the unsuspecting sailors above who hear the melodies say they must be the hymns of naiad choirs. 

One night, sailing near Grand Bahama, Jones sees a familiar silhouette near the surface. He frowns, gets his spyglass from his pocket, and peers through it.

It's a hammerhead shark, and it's not alone. Two more hammerheads appear, then five, then another eight, and within fifteen minutes there are easily fifty sharks forming a wide vortex above them. Outlined against the hazy moonlight filtering through the water, they appear ethereal, swimming in a vertical helix like angels ascending Jacob's ladder.

As Jones studies them, he becomes aware of a presence at his elbow. He turns, and sees Maccus standing beside him. The first mate points at the sharks and widens his human eye, as though to ask a question. Jones is baffled, but Maccus reads assent in his blank expression, and launches himself upward, swimming towards the hammerheads. When he reaches them, a couple split off from the group to investigate him. They are easily twice his length, and could rip him apart if they wished. Jones holds his breath. There is a limit to what even they can survive.

However, the sharks accept their half-man brother. Swimming alongside his new friends, Maccus takes his place at the outside of the vortex, a jagged anomaly among the tapered shapes of the hammerheads. By now, the others have noticed, and are pointing him out to one another. Jones sends them back to work with a threatening wave of his claw, then turns his back on the sharks and makes his way down to the gun deck. Watching their ritual feels wrong, as though he were one of the elders spying on Susanna at her bath. He lets Maccus be, though, because he knows that he will return without having to be called.

Days later, once the Dutchman has surfaced to scour the aftermath of a reef collision, a new legend regarding the first mate develops. Now, the crew say that he is not like them at all. A rumour whispers that his father was an ocean-going lech who mistook a shark for a mermaid. Maccus, it is told, is the result of that unnatural union, pulled from the brine in a fishing net and taken into the Dutchman's service as a boy. That is why the true hammerheads accepted him as their own. He has no allegiance to the world of men.

"And will you take a wife, Maccus, from your kin?" Ogilvey rasps, his facial corals grinding together in an approximation of a leer. The first mate smiles to himself and says nothing. As he plaits kelp strands together to make a new rope for the jib, he hums a verse from 'Spanish Ladies'. We'll drink and be jolly/And drown melancholy....

Jones frowns at him as cuts a new plug of flotsammed tobacco for his pipe. His mind drifts like a jellyfish, dragged by the current of memory back to the beginning of the last century, when the name of Calypso was not yet bitter to hear and the Dutchman ferried the lost souls of the sea. A roiling tempest one winter brought them a lone corpse, carried on the back of a towering wave like a foundling. They hoisted the body from the water and looked in vain for the rest of his crew.

When they examined the dead man more closely, they saw clues that explained why there were no other bodies. His eyes bulged queasily from their sockets, and a ligature mark stood out livid beneath his ear. When Jones touched him, the man gasped, choked, and opened his eyes. 

They sat him upright and slapped his back to help him breathe eternal. He clutched the hem of Jones' long coat and said, "I will serve aboard this ship forever, and be your faithful vassal - there is naught I will not do for your sake - as long as you never ask how I came to be hanged." His words gurgled in his pulped throat.

Jones did not ask, has never asked, and Maccus has served him unstintingly ever since.

"Ogilvey!" he roars. "If you have time to enquire into the first mate's personal life, then you have time to test the rotating gears on the triple guns! Go to it, sir, before I rip your coralled countenance from your skull!"

Calypso is named Tia Dalma now. She is a haggard charlatan, throwing crab claws to tell peasants' futures and making hex-jars from piss and rusty nails. But she used to be the sea itself, and sometimes Jones can hardly stand to be underwater, to be enveloped in the absence of her. 

The currents that push the Dutchman onward, the creatures that wriggle through her portholes, the reefs which knock the barnacles off the hull as it sails over them - they are all reminders that something is missing. He can't hear her laughter in the tumbling of rocks in the depths; she no longer dances in the kelp forests for him, her hair floating in vibrant mats on the surface. 

Irony of ironies that he and his crew are so visibly bound to the sea. When your hand becomes a pincer and your beard grows suckers, it is hard to deny the hold the ocean has on you. He can say that he ever knew Calypso, but his monstrous face lets the lie be known. The last thing every doomed sailor knows before Maccus slits their throat is that Davy Jones belongs to the tides. He is the man subsumed by the one he betrayed.

One night, thinking on this as he plays his organ, this thought becomes lodged in his aching, malformed head. He cannot stand it. In the spaces between the organ's notes, he hears her mocking him in thick Creole. Look at how well you have evaded me, when next you see your reflection in the still waters of the bay! You will never be free of the woman who loves you!

He thumps his claw on the organ keys, drawing a sonorous, discordant groan from its pipes. Panting, he strikes himself on the meat of his thigh to drive her voice from his head, to drown her out with pain. His eyes fall on the locket at the end of the lower keyboard. Her face is there, in bas-relief. It seems, in his haze of tears, to smirk.

He grabs the locket and makes his uneven way to the deck, punching holes through the rotten planks with his peg-leg. The upper levels on the ship are deserted, apart from the familiar T-shape of Maccus's cephalofoil at the helm. He doesn't take notice of him as he stomps up to the forecastle deck and stands in the prow.

"May they run you through with hot pokers and burn you for a witch," he mutters to the locket. Then, he closes his eyes and flings it as far as he can.

Over the course of the next three days, the feeling of wild, happy vengeance turns steadily sour, just as it did when the Brethren Court bound her. He abuses the crew, keelhauling Koleniko for not scrubbing the deck properly and having Hadras whipped to shreds on account of a frayed rope. They cringe away from him like kicked dogs, flubbing their work in fright. At night, he retires to his cabin to thrash out angry fugues, crying at the darker patch on wood where the locket used to be, tormenting himself with the thought that he will someday forget its tune.

On the third night, as he mutates Bach's 'Christ lag in Todesbanden', his neck tentacles cramp up, warning that he is being watched. He whips around; a tall, angular shadow looms in the candle-limned dark, one liquid eye glinting in the middle of a head shaped like an Odinist rune. Far away on Isla Cruces, Jones feels his heart stutter.

Then, Maccus sheepishly steps into the light.

Jones grabs his cane and swings it at him. "Wha th' deil are you doing in here? Which crackit fool did you leave at the helm? 'Sblood, an the ship runs into rocks, I'll sell you to a Spanish fisherman -"

Maccus holds out his hand and splays his fingers, revealing the silver-worked face of Calypso.

Jones' breath stops in his octopodal throat. He moves his mouth, but no words come out. His cane falls from his hand, catching on the suckers of his index tentacle. Maccus leans towards him and gently places the locket into his palm.

"I saw you throw it the other night," he murmurs. "I locked the helm with a long spar of driftwood, then I hopped off the deck and ran along the sand looking for it. I didn't give it to you right away because I thought you maybe didn't want it." He smiles. "If you really wanted rid of it, you should've thrown it on land. You are the sea."

Jones regains some of his composure. "And I suppose you were moved to compassion when I had your mate Hadras rent in two by the bo'sun," he growls, sarcasm dripping from each word like ink. Even so, he closes his fingers around the locket. Calypso's graven face presses into his palm. 

Maccus shrugs. "Aye, I knew I'd have to give it back afore the whole crew was ripped up. But mostly on account of the organ. I could tell your sorrows from how you played."

Jones gives him a hard look; this is the most the first mate has said in one go since the 1690s. "Indeed. I see. Your patience was strained by the unbearable yodelling of the instrument. You grew weary of my clumsy attempts at music."

"Never."  They are both taken aback by his vehemence, and Maccus ends his explanation in a subdued, sulky mutter: "I only knew you wanted it back. That's all."

He spins on his heel and makes for the stairs, his shoulders hunched. Jones examines the locket for a moment. Then, he lifts his head, saying, "Tarry, Maccus."

Maccus halts, one raddled foot on the lowermost step. Jones can tell he would rather give himself to the Kraken than stay, but he swore long ago he would do anything Jones asked of him, no matter how great...or small, as the case may be.

"Captain?" he says, addressing the wall.

"Tell me - did you ever have a little trinket such as this? Some trifling piece of half-nothing that you, notwithstanding its worthlessness, held unreasonably dear?"

For a moment, there is utter silence. Jones waits.

As though it acts contrary to its owner's wishes, Maccus's more monstrous hand, the one encased in keratin, creeps to his ancient belt. With fingers like a sea-spider's teeth, it picks at a certain knot until it comes undone, and pulls something loose from the mess of tubeworms infesting his stomach.

"Show me," Jones demands. Maccus only hesitates for a half-beat of the distant heart. He comes back to his captain at a reasonable speed and displays his treasure briefly.

"It's a piece of wood I found hanging off the mast," he explains. Before Jones can see it quite clearly, he snatches it out of sight and ties it back on his belt, tucking it inside the hem of his trousers. "I - I just decided to keep it on me to carve with."

Jones turns back to his organ. "A harmless diversion, but take care not to make a habit of it. It wouldn't do to have the whole Dutchman chipped out from underneath us because of your passion for whittling."

He means it as a joke, but Maccus only grunts and strides from the cabin. Jones listens as his footsteps ascend the staircase and make their way down the corridor, then stop. He could swear the next sound he hears is a retch so violent it makes his own stomach cramp. 

He clicks open the locket, and is gratified to discover that its mechanisms still work.

He tries to convince himself that he was mistaken about the specific shape Maccus had carved into the wood.

The ship used to be so different, in the days when they carried passengers.

It was the seventeenth century. The world was opening, like a geode, and the only way to reach the New World was by crossing the most traitorous body of water on Earth. Ships sank weekly, and the Dutchman's sojourns to the next world were so regular as to be like the ferry between the Hebrides. They had a full complement of crew, then, and their days were bright with industry. The dead lost their hollow-eyed pallor on such a cheerful vessel, and would pass over to whatever awaited them with great laughter. 

After a couple of years, the soldiers and merchants of Peru and New Spain became lonely for their families, and sent for them. The Dutchman, in her turn, became loaded down with women and children. It was then that Maccus's true calling manifested: there was no better man for the babies.

Sometimes they arrived with their mothers, and he would trail around after these shellshocked women, wheedling to be allowed a hold of their drowned child. Rarely, the mother would survive the sinking, leaving a delighted Maccus to take charge of her bereft infant. 

When Maccus had a kid all to himself, it was useless asking him to do anything that would necessitate putting it down. While the others hoisted the sails or tarred the hull, he would walk up and down the deck from dawn to dusk, jogging his charge and singing to it. Íosagáin, uasagáin, síos agaus suasagán.... At night, he would not sleep, but sat on the deck with the baby cradled in his lap, telling it the names of the stars. 

In those days, Jones played solemn German hymns, and Calypso was the sea to whom he addressed his music. She was in the holy caul that sheathed the sunrise at the equator, and her voice called out from the throats of frigates. He was a still a man, and his crew loved him, freely approaching him in his cabin to relate the goings-on above-decks.

Then the day came when he went ashore, and staggered back to the ship at sunset in vile pain, his shirtfront caked with blood, bawling for his keepsake chest.

After that, the crew still loved him, but they never came into his cabin anymore, and if they came upon him in a corridor they would subtly press themselves into the wall to avoid touching him. (His beard had begun to matt uncontrollably, and sometimes moved by itself.) 

It was months before they came across their next shipwreck. They came upon it in a tempest, the eddies of rain almost blinding them. They followed flotsam for a mile before they came within sight of her. The crew became excited. Wyvern came up to the captain and asked, "Orders, sir?" his face showing plain that he expected a welcome return to normality.

Jones didn't look at him.


"Retrieve the survivors and line them up on the main deck."

"But..." Wyvern hesitated. "What of the dead? We must take them to the next world."

Jones took his spyglass from his pocket and examined the wreck. Bodies floated on the waves, their arms akimbo. There must have been twenty-five at least.

He shucked the spyglass closed and turned away. "From now on, we will let the dead bury the dead. Since I have been so cruelly used, I consider myself released from the duty to which I cleaved for so long." 

"But, captain -"

"Make me repeat myself and see what happens next."

"...Aye, sir."

Jones went to the prow to observe. The crew brought the Dutchman close to the wreck, then swung across to hunt out the survivors. By then, they had become monstrous, and he could tell when one of the living had been found by their shrieks. One by one, they were brought back to the Dutchman and lined up. 

Making his way down to them, Jones puffed on his pipe, holding it with one of his newly-formed tentacles. He came to a stop in front of the bedraggled, quivering remnant, and blew smoke out of his siphon.

"What are these?" he asked Greenbeard. "They look not like sailors."

"They are Portuguese, so I cannot ask them," he replied, bemused, "although I believe them to be merchants. Captain, these men are alive. Let us take them to safety. Port Royal is but half a league away -"

Jones silenced him with a glare.

"We have no need for merchants," he announced, sipping on his pipe. Rain dripped from his hat down the back of his neck, which had lately become bulbous sack. "Kill them all."

The crew drew back, horrified. Voices were raised in protest. Jones, seeing their reluctance, calmly drew his own sword from its scabbard and thrust it through the nearest man's neck.

"There you go," he said, yanking the blade loose. The body slumped onto its front, already looking flat and empty. "Either kill them or die with them, it's the same to me."

He went back to his cabin. The sounds of slaughter clanging down from the deck annoyed him; to drown them out, he played some Bach.

Halfway through 'Jesu der du meine Seele', he heard something that gave him pause. He cocked his head to listen.

Somewhere, a baby was crying.

Gripped with rage, Jones shouldered his way back to the top deck. Crewmen scattered in his wake, leaving Maccus standing alone, clutching his jacket to his chest. The jacket wriggled and screamed.

Maccus was not yet a shark, but no longer a man. A frill of denticles lined his chin like a beard, and his head had taken on a lumpy aspect. But his eyes were still human, and they pleaded as loud as speech.

"I need not tell you," Jones growled, "that we have no use for a baby."

"We never had a use for babies before, either," Maccus replied, holding the child more tightly and trying to make himself heard over its squalls. "Please, sir. We need not take the ship to port. I will row out and find a fisherman. I will not be gone for more than a night -"

"Row out? Do you hear what you are saying?" Jones took a menacing step towards him, tentacles thrashing. "Do not challenge me on this, Maccus, it will not end well for you. The bairn belongs to the sea."

"She breathes! Look!" The baby was indeed breathing, as her howls attested. "Please, spare just this one. Let me return her to her kind -"

"Maccus." Now the captain loomed over him, boring pitiless cobalt eyes into his misshapen face. "You swore there was nothing you would not do for me."

Maccus swallowed. He glanced down at the baby and stroked her cheek. "I did swear, it's true," he admitted. "And the promise holds."

"Then throw her in."

For a moment, Maccus did not move. Jones put his claw on the hilt of his sword (it was then still small enough to grip things). The young man ran his finger across the baby's fine thatch of hair, whispered something to it, and went to the railing. The infant went quiet, awed by her own encroaching death.

Like Jochebed putting the basket in the rushes, Maccus leaned over as far as he could before letting go. 

Jones jerked at the splash. Without saying anything, he left the deck as quickly as he had come. For the rest of the night, he sat the the organ, his tentacles on the keys, not playing a note. Outside, the storm surged, fast developing into a hurricane. But it was only the weather. He would be a foolish man to think it meant anything more than that.

The next day, he made Maccus first mate.

Odd, isn't it, how you can spend hours paralysed in fear of the worst happening, but when it finally happens, you're not remotely prepared? 

They have been a week on the surface, suffering in the heat, waiting for a stricken brigantine to succumb to the open ocean. Out of a crew of eighteen, two have elected to forestall their judgement in the hall of Heaven and serve on the Dutchman - an extraordinary result. (The rest are dispatched as sensitively as their rusted axes can manage.) The crew crowd around their new mates, laughing, wondering aloud what forms they will take. Jones looks on, satisfied and complacent, looking forward to sending the ship back to mesopelagic zone and rehydrating his parched sacculi.

In the celebration, the crow's nest has been abandoned, and the only reason they're not taken totally by surprise is because Bootstrap - by nature ambivalent about recruiting new men - happens to cast a glance off the starboard side. He stiffens in shock, then bellows, "Sperm whales!"

Jones starts and runs to the railing. Sure enough, barely a hundred and fifty feet away, the ominous, telltale Y of the fluke slips back beneath the surface. 

"No," he breathes, before remembering himself. He shrieks orders in all directions - hardly necessary, since the crew is already mobilising. One of the new men asks, "What's the danger in a sperm whale? We aren't whalers."

"I will only explain this once," Jones snaps, brushing past him. "We release the Kraken. The Kraken preys on these whales. They, having realised who controls the Kraken, aim to destroy this ship and so destroy their enemy. Now you understand the gravity of the situation, would you please find some way to help alleviate it?"

The new men scramble to obey. Jones storms down to the gun deck to remind Ogilvey, Penrod and Angler to aim wide. "Make us not worth their while to attack, but for the love of all things sacred, don't kill any. That will only strengthen their resolve." The men nod distractedly as they load the guns and make ready the fuses; they've been through this before. 

He clambers back up to the deck. Clanker materialises and tells him, "Two whales, sir. A fair-sized cow and a yearling. They're circling, but they haven't attacked yet."

"Building up their nerve...well, let's make them think twice about it," Jones replies grimly. He raises his voice: "Find any pistol ye can lay hands or pincers on and fire into their flanks. A good volley of stings will give them pause." Some of the crew produce begrimed firearms and pump the triggers, sending century-old ammunition into the sleek, tough hides of the whales. The juvenile shrieks and breaks formation, swinging his long body towards the boat. At that moment, the water explodes into spray; the guns are online, deliberately missing the whales. The calf changes direction and swims away from the Dutchman, propelling himself into the depths with a flick of his sleek tail.

The cow blows, spattering the crew hanging over the sides, and follows her offspring below the surface. The water ripples in her wake. The sea becomes calm, and the crew fall silent, waiting.

"Should we keep firing?" Ogilvey calls up from below-decks. 

"Leave them be for a space," Jones yells back. This is different from the two previous occasions when the sperm whales attacked the ship. Those had been drawn-out battles, with the whales shouldering the hull in an effort to overturn the vessel and the crew beating them back with the guns. Compared to those incidents, this one has been lightweight for both man and beast. 

They peer over the sides into the water, looking for the slender black bodies of their enemies. 

Jones suddenly realises what he should have known from the beginning. The whales haven't given up; they're trying something new. 

"Hard to starboard!" he roars. "They're underneath us! Get us out of their way! Gunners, start a barrage! Try to turn them -"

He is falling, and the ship is rising beside him, lifting clean out of the water. The world is full of rushing noise. Then, there is no noise, and he spins and kicks in the sea, stunned from the impact.

He is in utter dark, utter silence. The darkness jerks; it rolls; it slams into him like an anchor. He screams without sound; his flailing claw catches on something passing by, drawing a flume of blood. The whole ocean shakes with a huge, rumbling groan. An immense slipstream pulls him sideways, his tentacles streaming behind him.

There is suddenly a difference in the dark, he doesn't know why, but he feels that there is now some sort of not-dark. Something gleams before him, something huge.

His bewildered brain finally processes the information, and he realises that he is staring into the cow-whale's eye. It glares at him, blinking, the eyelids aching with their load of barnacles. He has never seen its like before. It looks like a great smooth stone on the shore, a massive lump of dolomite ringed with quartz. It looks at him with intent hatred. This whale will not be cheered by his annihilation; that is not an emotion her species is able to feel. She is only advanced enough to know what is necessary.

Hung there in the water, unable to escape the eye's dull violence, Jones feels very small.

Something explodes, blinding him with bubbles and pushing him backwards. The whale grunts and arches downward to escape what Jones takes to be a cannonball. Her fluke catches him and pushes him towards the surface. He rockets upward and emerges with a gasp into the world of light and screams.

"Hold your fire!" someone yells. With a prodigious splash, they land in the water beside him, saying, "Thank God, thank God, thank God," out of breath. It's Maccus. "It's alright. You're alright. Here." The first mate loops a rope around his bewildered captain and ties it into a makeshift harness. "Heave, boys!" he roars at those on deck. The rope goes taut, and Jones rises out of the water, with Maccus clinging on with one hand and firing his pistol into the water with the other.

He lands on the deck in a gasping heap, like a netful of sardines. The crew swarm to help him to his feet.

"Give me your report," he says as soon as he can speak. "Is the ship still under threat?"

"I don't think so, sir," Crash replies, pointing. Everyone looks, and a weak cheer goes up: the whales are clearly retreating, mother and son. They make insulting references to the animals' intelligence and ancestry, waving their swords and promising to harpoon them next time. 

The captain is in no mood to applaud their success. "This only happened at all because the crow's nest was left unattended," he spits. "From this day forward, if ever I look up and see it empty again, I will personally flog every mother's son among you." The threat achieves his desired aim of dampening the mood. Chastened, the crew set about readying the ship to go below-surface, murmuring to one another.

As he storms down the steps into the hold, Maccus follows him, keeping at a polite distance. When he can bear the shadowing no longer, he spins on his peg-leg and spits, "To what do I owe the pleasure, sir?"

"Did the whale hurt you?" Maccus asks. "When you went under, and we saw her shadow where you fell, we thought..." He pauses. 

"Ye thought she took me between her mighty jaws and cracked me like a nut," Jones fills in. He leans on his cane and gives the first mate a withering look. "For the love of all the saints, man! I take one wee topple into the sea - which, need I remind you, is my domain over which to rule - and you lot lower the flag to half-mast." He spreads out his arms to encompass himself and announces, "Well, here is the proof you need that not even a ravenous, vengeful cachalot would dare even to nibble the dreaded Davy Jones. Are you satisfied?"

As per usual, Maccus brushes off his sarcasm. "She seemed to get mighty close, sir. And she was big, for a female."

Jones turns his back on him, to hide how his tentacles tremble. "I know not how close she was. I fell where the light didn't reach." He resumes his journey through the warren of rotten corridors that leads to his cabin, Maccus trailing him like a lumpen dog. "She dived to escape the cannon, and her tail pushed me back to the surface." He throws Maccus an accusing glance over his shoulder. "There was no need to come lepping into the water as though I were a wean in need of rescue."

"I wasn't about to take chances with those beasts. The Dutchman must needs have a captain."

"You were overzealous, Maccus, and you may have cost me the respect of my crew."

"They are grateful to still have you at all."

"The night you joined this accursed ship, you swore you would serve me without faltering. The accepted definition of service does not include lying."

Maccus's footsteps falter, then stop. Jones continues on, leaving him standing alone in the dripping hallway, the kelp caught on his barnacled shoulders; a bizarre statue in the semi-dark.

They spend the next couple of weeks underwater, looking for those who went down with their ships and are trapped on the ocean's floor. They suffer the maddening pressure of the bathyal zone, searching for a fluyt the Kraken had overenthusiastically dragged back to its lair. When they find it, the couple of sailors whose souls couldn't quite get free of their bodies are happy to take a hundred years of servitude over eternity in the abyss. 

Jones sends the Dutchman back to the surface to let everyone recover from the expedition. It is a relief to bob up into the late-afternoon warmth of the Caribbean winter. The captain retires to his cabin to record their success in his sodden, table-sized log, occasionally coaxing a peaceful air out of the organ. The crew stay above-decks to catch the last of the sun's rays, showing off how much new sea-fauna they've accumulated during their time in the deep. They also patch back up the ship - no mean task, considering the ratio of necessary work to usable fingers. Jones, listening to the pleasant racket above, plays mellow, contented chords with his half-human hand as he writes, the quill grasped in his suckers.

As the sky darkens to a bruised mauve, the crew begin to clamour for songs. Their newer recruits have a store of new shanties, which are received with great approval by those whose repertoires have not been updated since the seventeenth century. The reedy whine of a conch shell (Hadras has likely donated his head) provides accompaniment, and they all pass a happy hour in this fashion. Then, the fickle tastes of the listeners swing back to the traditional; Jones hears them calling on Maccus.

Their pleas must move him, for then his steady, rough tenor comes lilting faintly down to where Jones sits: Go deo deo arís, ní raghad go Caiseal, ag díol ná reic mo sláinte...

He recognises the tune, and, to the pleasure of the crew, presses a simple homophonic line on the organ. Maccus is encouraged, and the words become clearer in the thin night air. Téanam chun siúil, tá an cúrsa fada...

Someone speaks up: "Maccus, you old Paddy, I swear I know you for the Captain's -" The last word doesn't quite translate through the layers of woodworm and copepod. The singing stops. There is a dead silence - and then a bellow of pain, and a splattering.

Jones extracts himself from behind the organ and makes his laborious way up to the top deck. Penrod lies on the main deck, the soft lobster-meat of his belly opened, hundreds of tiny fish cascading from the wound. Maccus stands over him, his cutlass unsheathed and dripping with clear fluid.

The crew, bunched in a circle around the pair of them, throw themselves out of the way when they hear the captain coming. He storms over to Maccus, grabs his neck in his massive claw, and snarls, "What means this, sir?"

"I was accused of a certain vice," Maccus wheezes calmly. He wipes off the blade on what's left of his trousers. 

Jones shakes him. "And what was this vice of which you were accused?"

"It matters not," Maccus replies, "since I am not guilty of it."

He sounds as tranquil as a shepherd remarking on the weather, but a storm is gathering in his one human eye. Jones feels his muscles cording beneath his claw. He is like the lethal little octopus who knows that, if crushed by some unthinking foot, he will at least take his killer with him to Hell.

Disgusted, he pushes Maccus to the deck. "Bo'sun!" he roars. "Ready the whip. Ten lashes might teach this weevil to be more circumspect with his weapon."

Shock ripples through those assembled. In all the time Maccus has served aboard the Dutchman, he has never been lashed, only stung the same as everyone else whenever they labour to wake the Kraken.

The memory of that mild irritation is likely what leads Maccus to say, "Aye, cap'n," and rise with great dignity to meet his punishment. He hands his cutlass to Hadras and proceeds docilely to the rigging, saying, "Don't stint me, Jim, but do not whip the lobster, he has done nothing wrong."

Jimmylegs has to look for the whip; he did not expect to use it tonight. The crew drift after him as he follows Maccus to where he waits. At every step, they glance back at the captain, as though waiting for him to relent. He scowls at them and makes his way to the forecastle, where he will oversee the proceedings. Only Penrod remains where he fell, clutching at where Maccus opened him. As Crash passes his stricken crewmate, he gives him a sly, vicious kick.

The bo'sun hesitates. He raises the whip, but cannot bring himself to swing it. Jones grows impatient, and calls out, "Do you dare to disobey a direct order, sir?"

Jimmylegs shakes his head, mute with misery. 

"Then get to it, or I will send you to the Locker and do it myself!"

The crew murmurs, and he screams at them to be quiet. Maccus's hands tighten on the ropes. Jimmylegs motions to Broodjongen and Palifico to be ready to grab him. Then, with a grimace, he hefts the whip over his shoulder and swings it with all his strength.

When it lands, Maccus gasps in terrible surprise and staggers against the rigging. The pain is evidently far worse than he had imagined; sensing that his stoicism will not last, Palifico and Broodjongen step forward and hold him down. 

"That's one," Jones reminds them all, resting his weight on his cane. "Nine more to go, Jimmy."

Maccus twists his head away from the rigging and stares up at him as though seeing him for the first time. Then, the second blow lands, and he howls, all the fauna on his body seizing up.

With each slash of the whip, the crew flinches, moving in ragging concert. Gleaming slivers of shark-flesh fly through the air on the backswing. The new recruits watch with their mouths open, scarcely able to comprehend it. 

At the fourth strike, the pain beyond understanding, Maccus panics. He tries to wrench himself away from his captors, who curse at him as they struggle to keep him in one place. Appalled, the crew cry out to him - "Six more only, lad, you must be brave!" The bo'sun stays his hand. 

"Can I wait until he collects himself?" he shouts up to Jones, who shakes his head. Jimmylegs glances at the others, says, "I will be as brief as I can," and attacks his victim with renewed violence. In between his screams, Maccus pleads with him to stop. His breathing comes in hysterical, laboured whoops. Jimmylegs ignores him. Blood patters onto the age-warped, algaed planks. 

The tenth lash lands; Broodjongen and Palifico immediately drag their limp quarry from the rigging and shove him down the stairs onto the lower deck. He lands face-down and curls into a shaking ball. The others swarm forwards to help him, but Jones comes down from the forecastle and disperses them with a swat of his cane. "Let any man go near that caitiff," he threatens, "and he will find himself lying beside him with his own back split open. Get the ship steady, and then get out of my sight. I don't want to see any of you loitering about before we return to the depths in the morning."

He storms down to his cabin. On the way, Wyvern leans out of the wall and murmurs, "Bloody murder, that."

"Ah, haud your whisht, you glorified balustrade," Jones mutters. Once he reaches the cabin, he locks the door and sits at the organ. The sight of the captain's log, which seems to belong to someone else's life, makes him feel sick. He takes the locket from the keyboard and runs his clammy thumb across the grooves of Calypso's beautiful face, worn smooth from years of rubbing.

He doesn't stir until much later, long after the creaking and subdued murmurs of the crew settling the ship have subsided. Then, he gets up and picks his way through the dark to the orlop. The faint moonlight outlines what looks, from a distance, like a heap of clothes. It's Maccus. He hasn't moved from where he fell.

Just as Jones steps into the open, he hears footsteps. He draws back, blending himself into the mussels and anemones infesting the nearest wall. 

The footsteps come to the lip of the steps, then stop.

"Christ. The back on him is like a cat's dinner." That's Bootstrap.

"Do you think he might be dead? He has not stirred since." Hadras, sounding doubtful.

"I shouldn't say so, but let us check. He must be moved, anyway." That last comes from Penrod, of all people. Three sets of footsteps descend the staircase softly. Three monstrous silhouettes stand around the first mate. Jones frowns, shifting his weight to get a better view.

Bootstrap stoops down and lays his hand on Maccus's shoulder. After a moment, he says, "He breathes."


"Aye. Not a mote wrong with him, apart from the obvious, but we're not likely to get sense out of him for a while yet."

"Why?" Penrod sounds mulish. "Ten lashes is not the worst a man can expect. Hadras, you were strung together with just your gristle by the time Jimmy was done with you."

"Ah, but I have had it before. My back is so hardened with shells and coral, I did not feel a thing. And besides," Hadras continues drily, "I am not madly in love with the captain." Someone smacks him. "Aie, don't hit me! It is true!"

"Keep your voice down, for God's sake," Bootstrap hisses. He touches Maccus's wounds. "Look at how thick the skin is here! It goes as deep as the width of my thumb, but Jimmy has slashed it down to the meat." He looks up, scowling. "Penrod, it behoved you ill to say what you said. What possible good can ever come of calling a man his captain's catamite?"

Jones's throat is suddenly as dry as paper. He struggles to keep silent. The little group on the orlop continues to talk, oblivious. 

"I only meant it in fun!" Penrod protests. "I never dreamed he would take it so badly."

"May the devil string together a ladder from your backbone, Penrod! He imagines that he hides how he feels." Bootstrap huffs an angry sigh. "I would pledge a century's service that the only person who doesn't know is the beloved himself."

"At least we know for sure that there is nothing contrary between the captain and this one." Hadras squats down and runs a fond knuckle across Maccus's cephalofoil. "If he were a favourite, he would not have been flogged."

"I never thought there was. I meant it only in jest." Penrod strokes Maccus's outstretched hand with his feelers, morose. "We won't hear him sing again for a long time."

"Maccus. Maccus, a leanbh, it's long over. Can you move at all?" Bootstrap shakes his crewmate's shoulder very gently. "We've come to bring you to the hold, but we must be quick. The captain may walk abroad, and that will be the end of us all."

They wait for a moment.

"He is insensate," says Penrod. "We will have to shift him, whether he wakes or no."

"His heart is broken," Hadras retorts. "Give him a moment more."

They all wait, including Jones. A tight-strung minute passes. Then, the lobster's legs stretch out, searching for purchase on the air. Maccus groans. His fingers curl into fists. The others pass their hands beneath him and lever him into a slumped sitting position. He leans against Bootstrap, panting.

"Boys," he croaks, "I am near slain."

In a cluster of whispers, they reassure him that no, no, it just seems that way because it was his first time, it feels much worse than it really is. He demands the truth: does his spine show? They say it does not, which Jones knows is true. Which he could have told Maccus himself. Should have.

It takes their combined effort to raise him to his feet. They try to make him walk, but he resists, pulling away from them. "I want to say something to ye, and I want it told to the the others," he growls, swaying where he stands.

"You're among friends here," Bootstrap replies, clutching at his elbow to steady him. "We're listening."

Maccus pauses. A gull mews off the starboard side, and he swings his angular head to hiss at it. Then, he lurches towards Bootstrap and says, "I'm not as much of a lick-arse as everyone may think."

Hadras and Penrod half-heartedly protest to the contrary. He bares his teeth at them. "Shut it. Don't pretend that I don't know what gets said below-decks when I'm out manning the helm. You all think the Captain says jump and I don't even ask how high. Well, I've a story for you all that'll put paid to that line of chatter." 

"It can wait -" Penrod interjects, tugging at him.

"No!" Maccus pushes him back. "Just listen to me this once, alright? Long ago - right after the Captain cut out his heart and left it on that Godforsaken heap of sand - we came across a shipwreck. He had us kill the survivors - the first time he had ordered us to do such a thing. I went into the wreck to see if there was anyone left, and what did I find but a little baby screeching its brains out in one of the cabins?"

"What did you do?" Hadras asks. His tone suggests he doesn't like where this is going. Jones, who believes he does, strains to listen, wondering why Maccus is telling them this.

"I scooped it up and wrapped it in my jacket - I had a jacket back then, I was but three years in service - and brought her over to the Dutchman. Wyvern and the others were throwing the last of the corpses overboard, and when they saw what I had found, they made signs to me to hide it. But the captain saw and demanded that I show him what it was I carried. I showed him; he pinned me with this sort of daring look and ordered me to give her to the sea."

Bootstrap mutters an oath. Penrod murmurs, "And did you?" 

"I did." Maccus's voice is as quiet as the waves lapping the prow. "I made sure he saw me doing it, too, because I knew he thought I would disobey him and break my oath. The next morning, he made me first mate."

The story is over. Jones wonders whether to step out of the wall now, and twist the hearts in them, or to silently follow them to the hold, making his appearance just when they think they're safe. But - his tentacles crumple in surprise - Maccus continues on.

"Once he heard the splash, he turned away smartly and went to his cabin. The very moment he was out of sight, I went in after her like a shot. She hadn't sunk far at all - it only took two kicks to reach her and two more to surface. The crew took her from me and laid her out on the deck."

"Did she live?" Bootstrap asks, his voice lifting in hope.

Maccus's smile is apparent when he answers. "She did, but it took some work! We beat the sea out of her as best as we could, and then Wyvern breathed the life back into her as I pressed down on her chest to awake her heart. At last, right when we had given up, she coughed like a man and started to cry. The others lowered the cockboat for me, and I rowed half a mile to reach a port. I handed her to some fishermen and told them she was a present from Calypso. I was back at the Dutchman before the captain missed me. To this day, he's no idea what I did. He flatters himself with the thought that I debased himself for his sake. Well, he doesn't know everything. Now, take me to the hold and let me lie on something soft. My back feels as though the whip were still on it."

The four of them pass slowly by the place where Jones hides. His insides have gone cold. Once their soft voices have faded out of earshot, he eases himself out of the wall and goes up to the main deck, to the place where Maccus stood over a century ago with a crying baby in his arms, pleading for her life.

He stays there until daybreak, then goes down to his cabin and spends the day there, re-reading his logs, going back through a hundred years of shipwrecks, searching for the day he decided the souls of the dead would have to make their own way to the afterlife. He can't find it. There's a gap of a year and a half after his last trip before going to meet Calypso. When his entries resume, they begin thus: Scuttled caravel near the Azores. Three crew left alive, thirty passengers. All sent to judgement.

Two weeks later, Jones once again materialises next to his first mate at the helm.

The sky is moonless and starless, and Maccus is only a hulking shape in the grey dark. The ship's weary timbers whisper crrrreee-aak, creak, and the ropes Maccus has plaited over the years snap in a feeble, licking breeze. 

"Captain," he says, not taking his eyes off the horizon. 

The open wounds left by the whip have already been colonised by limpets and sea-pens. With each breath, they rub along each other, a constant symphony of scraping.

Maccus can no more control the lobster than Jones can his tentacles. It scuttles on air, frantic. 

Jones stands beside him for a while, not saying anything, trying to gauge his mood. The lobster's legs go still. The shark-eye is, as always, a flat mirror. Two hundred feet portside, a whale blows.

"Most likely a humpback, we are in their feeding-ground," Jones says; all the same, Maccus gestures at him to hold the helm steady while he goes to check. After a minute or two, he climbs back over the railing, the water plashing off him.

"An orca," he explains, taking control of the helm again. "No threat to the ship, but no friend to sharks either, God knows. I've seen 'em kill great whites."

Jones murmurs in acknowledgement. Together, they stare out at the horizon, listening to the long roll of the waves. 

"Maccus," Jones says at last, "you have never been anything but loyal to me and to the Dutchman."

His first mate gives him a brief nod, not looking at him.

Jones scrapes at a splinter on the deck with his peg-leg as he continues. "I have a ledger in my cabin. It is locked and chained, and where the key is, I will not say. Inside, I have recorded the names of each man who ever served on this ship, along with the date on which he first came aboard."

Maccus says nothing.

"Tonight, I looked for your name. It was near the beginning. Do you know when you began your service?"

Silence. Even the waves hold their breath.

"The fifth of February, 1615. And do you know what day it is today?" He doesn't bother waiting for a reply. "It is the nineteenth of April, in the year of our Lord 1725. You have served a surfeit of ten years." He puts a fatherly, tentacled hand on Maccus's shoulder. "You have upheld your oath beyond what was asked, sir, and it is long overdue that I should release you -"

"For the sake of the love I bear you, do not make me leave this ship."

The words land with the force of a slap. Jones walks to the railing and looks out at the sea to compose himself. 

When he thinks he can be calm, he goes to the helm and stands in front on it, so that Maccus has no choice but to look at him with his human eye. "Do not raise your voice to me again. I mean it."

Maccus resolutely avoids eye contact, straining to see past him. Jones nudges his chin with his pincer and demands, "Look at me like a man and explain yourself. You know me for a cruel master. It's no secret that I have never let a soul go free after his century is up. It goes against my whole nature to offer you your freedom, and yet you scowl like a schoolboy and throw it back in my face. Will you take pity on an old man in his dotage and explain why?"

He didn't think it possible for a shark to blanch in fear, but Maccus has done it. 

"You were there," he mumbles, scarcely able to frame the words. "That night. When Bootstrap and the others came to help me."

Jones inclines his head in assent, waiting.

But Maccus is too frightened to go on. He glances back at the stern, as though measuring the chances of throwing himself to the orcas before Jones gets him. The pincer closes firmly on his arm to dissuade him. He whips around to meet Jones' eyes, pulling his top lip away from his serrated upper teeth.

"Is this how it ends?" he asks, his voice cracking. "You ripping me in two and sending me to the Locker, like any wretch pulled from a scuttled ship?" When Jones doesn't answer, he gives him a maniacal grin and continues, "If you truly believe that I have been disloyal to you, then you have every right to ask why I was hanged."

"I am sorry to deny you the luxury of unreason, Maccus, but lifting your yoke would not involve ripping of any fashion. As for your loyalty, it has never been in question - although, given recent events, I am developing great insight into the circumstances which led to your misfortune." Jones lets him go and stands back, resting his weight on his cane. "To tell the truth, I am ashamed of myself. It is a poor captain who has his right-hand man whipped, when he was only defending his honour."

Maccus composes himself; his face once again assumes a mask of respectful indifference. "Sir, punishing your crew is your right. Whether you believe I deserved my flogging or not, it was your decision to use me so." His eyes wander, seeking the horizon. "In any case, it was a privilege to be so straitly corrected."

From anyone else, this would amount to a fair notice that a mutiny was in the works. In Maccus's downturned mouth, the words become glutinous with sincerity. Jones rolls his eyes and walks away. "I must confess, lad, that your constant flattening of yourself into a carpet for me to tread on grates my very soul." A jocular sort of feeling comes over him, and he turns back again, a smile on his lips: "Now and again, if you were to buck in your traces, and let your hatred of me show plain, I should like you -"

The look on Maccus's face makes him stop.

A mist breathes damp across the Caribbean, blurring the space between them. It condenses on any surface it finds, and the two cursed men look as though they are silently crying. 

Maccus takes a deliberate step away from the helm, his hands poised in mid-air as though to conduct the sea. He lowers them to his sides and exhales slowly. The wind picks up, and the ragged sails flap like flags.

Staring up at them, he says in a monotone, "I could never, ever hate you."

"I did not mean -"

"Even if I wanted to. And I sometimes do. It would be easier, for you and for me."

Jones knows better than to speak. He somehow knows that Maccus is not addressing him. He is the subject, not the interlocutor.

"The day they took me to the rope, I knew what would happen. The noose would raise up my body, but my soul would fall. The night before, I - I put my finger against the glass of a lamp, just to see how it would feel." He pauses, swallows. His throat clicks. "It hurt. I could face the moment of dying, but the thought of all the moments that would come after....that pain, multiplied, all over me, forever....I said to myself, if someone were to save me from that, I would follow him to the end." Looking up at the yardarm, he stands to attention, as though there are men all about him with muskets. It is when you are in extremis that they expect your best behaviour. "They put the hood on me, and then I had to wait. I do not remember what came after that. The next I knew was this ship, and the man who had saved me from my punishment." He looks wildly at Jones. "Did I not keep my promise?"

The ship begins to drift. Jones catches the helm and gently rights her. "You did," he says to the sky. "Without fail."

Maccus takes a shuddering breath. "I despise how I feel. It corrupts my purpose. But I must live with my heart, even though it is my lifelong enemy. Please don't send me back into the dark because of it."

He staggers to the bannister and holds himself up against it, his shoulders heaving. Jones regards his stooped silhouette, thinking. He comes to a decision.


The silhouette straightens somewhat. 

"Go to the hold and get Palifico. Tell him to relieve you. I will keep her steady."

The effect of his words is so remarkable that it alarms him. Maccus snaps upright and says, "Aye, cap'n," in a tone just shy of lickspittling, and with swift strides descends the stairs. 

A few minutes later, Palifico appears. Jones says to him, "Tell me - how did Maccus seem to you, when he came to summon you for me?"

"He was his usual self," is the disinterested reply. "I was surprised, though, for he did not look at all tired. There was a peculiar light in his man's-eye."

"Where is he now?"

Palifico throws him a faintly suspicious look. "I should think he went to bed."

Jones leaves him to his lonely duty and ventures down into the hold, where the snuffling carcasses of the crew lie slumped in hammocks. Maccus's berth is slung at the far end. As Jones gets closer, he sees that he is sleeping; the shark's eye, pointed at the low ceiling, is occluded by the white nictitating membrane. The first mate lies on his side, with his cephalofoil uncomfortably wedged out of the canvas. Jones looms over him, and sees what he expected: the whittled bit of mast, held loosely in a shark-fleshed hand.

Gingerly, he reaches down and catches the scrap of wood with his index tentacle, lifting it up, afraid all the while that Maccus will wake. But the membrane doesn't twitch, and Jones manages to draw the wood into his own fist. 

(He does not see it flicker open as he retreats.)

When he reaches the deck, he goes to the forecastle, where Palifico won't see him, and peers at the trinket.

It is carved in the shape of an octopus. What it lacks in detail is made up for in form. Two tentacles on either side of the body stretch out in perfect symmetry, as though in search of prey; four more are curled in whorls around the head. Maccus has taken trouble with the creature's goatish eyes; they possess a startling benevolence. The carving shines as though lacquered, burnished by the repeated caresses of its maker's thumb. 

Jones holds it as though it were a live animal, tiny and boneless, squirming in his hand. There is only one safe place for this creature, just as there is only one safe place for the hands which shaped it.

He leans over the railing and drops the carving into the sea.

Years later, Bootstrap's whelp pins Maccus with his clever dark eyes and says, with the bald confidence of youth, my father told me you tried to swallow the sea. 

Maccus looks up. Bootstrap stands behind his son. His wrinkled face is solemn. He rests a warning hand on the boy's shoulder.

The captain, watching from the stern, waits to hear the reply.

Laying the pulley he was mending to one side, Maccus sits back and eyes the boy. "If he says it, then so be it. I will be a constant lesson to you on the dangers of drinking saltwater. It only makes you thirstier, and in the end, it drives you mad."

His shark's-eye stares flatly at his captain. It is a discreet eye; its black gleam gives nothing away. If Maccus's face, at this moment, betrays anger or despair, that is not Jones's lot to know. Only the child Turner is privy to it, but he is already bored with this opaque kind of talk. He turns away from Maccus and says something to his father, his tone bright and urgent. He behaves as though he were on a kinder vessel, and that is a dangerous way to live. Bootstrap has lately developed a constant expression of itching fear.

Jones turns to watch the sea. He would like to pull Will Turner to one side and ask, how did he look when he answered you? What did you read in his sharp sneer? Do you know that you are the only one among us who can now stand to look him in his human eye?

It would be useless, of course. Turner is too young to interpret whatever it was he saw. 

A knowing swell rocks the Dutchman, reminding them all of the sea's power. The waves begin to roll; a storm is coming, that much is plain. Maybe it will bring them another corpse, bruised with its secrets, ready to serve beyond what is asked of it.

The sky purples. The wind roars. Somewhere, a ship struggles to stay afloat.

Full sail.