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The Pirate King

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The Pirate King

 

***

 

No one messed with the Pirate King.

 

No one messed with the Pirate King for good reason, and it wasn’t just because she was actually a Pirate Queen and that no Pirate King before her had ever had her wily ways and the vicious vengeance of a woman scorned. Neither was it because she had a near army of bloodthirsty cutlasses at her back, ready to obey her every order, or that with her wit and beauty she could charm any man right off the plank.

 

No, it wasn’t solely because of those things.

 

Those of a more ignorant character would argue it was because she knew the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow, thrice damned and yet still breathing. That when she wanted to she could call upon the Black Pearl, whose stories yet circulated the oceans with tales of ghost ships and horrors beyond imagining. Regardless of whether or not ghost ships were real, Sparrow was, and in the event of a betrayal or a mishap of some kind, you didn’t want Sparrow on your back, because he’d be cutting your throat before you even knew he was there.

 

Others yet would argue that her son was the one to truly fear. Because Jack Sparrow saw him as his own flesh and blood, and with the flesh and blood of Sparrow came Captain Teague and a whole host of notorious cutthroats. Captain Barbossa also had a vested interest in the boy, and with a Pirate King for a mother, the only thing he ever had to fear was the ignorance of the common people.

 

But that still was not the final reason that no one ever messed with the Pirate King or her associates. Mostly because those that messed with the Pirate King never came back alive. Save for perhaps one - from whence the stories came - if Sparrow were to be believed.

 

For those that had heard the rumours, they spoke of terrifying monsters - of Davy Jones and his ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman. Of course, the arguments grew only more ridiculous so that no, it wasn’t Davy Jones, because the immortal collector of the dead had been defeated by an even more terrifying foe who now ruled the seas in his stead. There were whispered stories of Calypso and the Kraken, of dead men who walked in the shape of sea animals, of haunting music and a trail of corpses, and of the End of World.

 

Of course these were just stories, nothing more. Except that some believed the Pirate King was Calypso herself. Some argued that she had killed Davy Jones. Some claimed she was married to Davy Jones. Then there were the rumours of witchcraft - that she kept a great power locked in a chest and that those that found and stole it would become immortal and untouchable, though no hint of the chest had ever been found. So whatever it was, no one knew which was quite the truth, save for a few. But the only thing anyone could agree on was that even the most meticulously planned ambush or coup was bound to fail, and not just because of the King’s wit, or beauty, or even her skill with a sword and that of her men.

 

As the crew of La Fortuna were finding out, there was some truth to those fantastical stories, and the truth was a terrifying thing indeed.

 

They’d planned it out carefully. They were new to this pirating business and refused to be ruled by a woman who’s only real use was in keeping house and child, or on her back. And she had the gall to call herself a Pirate King? Where was her husband? Despite rumours, no one had seen hide nor hair of this so-called William Turner, who had mysteriously disappeared. Were he real, he was likely dead in Davy Jone’s arms, or she a whore who’d stolen the name from one of her many lovers to try to give herself some respectability.

 

A lying whore of a woman would never tell them what and how to plunder and pillage, so they laid a trap. They charted the course of her ship when they knew she would just be travelling from port to port with minimal crew. They found like-minded pirates who also raged against the insult of a woman-king and prepped two of their most fortified ships. Then, they lay in wait, and when her ship sailed, right on course, into their waiting arms, they knew it spelled her end and that she would soon be sleeping with the fishes - her and her brat.

 

And yet, even after they’d boarded the vessel and laid their swords at her throat. Even when they’d frisked every last man on board until they were defenceless and on their knees, she simply stood there with her head held high and her eyes narrowed and advised them to turn around and go back home.

 

The self-appointed leader of the coup, a Monsieur Leblanc, having stepped forward to ‘negotiate’ (but mostly to gloat), grew incensed at her refusal to bow her head in defeat. “Woman, you ‘ad best be on your kneez, begging for mercy, least we slit ‘iz s’roat.” He nodded to the young boy, maybe six or seven years of age at most, who likewise appeared highly unconcerned with the state of his capture.

 

Currently trapped in the large, scarred arms of Leblanc’s most menacing pirate, the kid should have been trembling and crying. Instead, he looked almost bored. “Mother, his breath smells like a pigsty,” was the only comment the kid deemed important enough to utter when the scarred pirate holding him leered and pressed his sword deeper under his chin.

 

“William, darling, don’t aggravate the man,” said the King. She looked down her nose at Leblanc, despite their height difference. “You had best listen to me now, scum. It is you who had best be on his knees begging my forgiveness, least I decide that your lives are forfeit for this betrayal.” She pursed her lips after that and eyed him coldly. “Then again…”

 

Leblanc let out a snarl of rage as his men shifted uneasily. “You! Your arrogance! C’est de merde! Do you sink you ‘ave ze upper ‘and? You are outnumbered and ‘elpless and no one or no’sing will come to your rescue now!”

 

The Pirate King shifted from one foot to another as her men began to snicker amongst themselves like they knew some great joke that no one else was privy to. She sighed and shook her head, expression entirely unconcerned. “I take it you do not heed the warnings and rumours of my husband, then? No, I thought not, else you would not be so utterly idiotic enough to do what you are doing now.” She turned her gaze out upon the ocean. “Truly, you would not have dared attack as you have, at night, just before dawn, because that is the worst time to attack me on the water. Had you attacked on land, perhaps you might have won. But here and now?” She shook her head, tendrils of brown hair slipping in the salty wind. “He does not like when I am threatened, you realise. But he hates it the most when someone puts a sword to William. The man that holds him now, his life is forfeit regardless.” She turned back to Leblanc. “But, if you surrender now, I might be able to negotiate a contract of servitude to pay for your transgression. What say you?”

 

If Leblanc did not currently need his sword he would have thrown it in a fit of rage at the sheer audacity and - yes, perhaps - insanity of this one woman. “‘Usband? What ‘usband? If ‘e iz ‘ere, ‘e iz captured! If ‘e iz not, ‘e will be too late! I will personally take great pleasure in slitting your s’roat myself!”

 

Captain Turner finally nodded decisively to herself, still showing no signs of fear - not even a flicker of doubt in her eyes. “Very well, if you insist. Then may I request one thing of you, seeing as my tricks can not sway you?”

 

Leblanc relaxed a little. So, she admitted her womanly charms would get her nowhere! He laughed. “Per’aps. Eef you beg.”

 

But she didn’t beg. She didn’t even look slightly repentant. “Wait for dawn.”

 

Leblanc exchanged a look with his First Mate, who shrugged. “Dawn?” he repeated.

 

“It is soon. It will be spectacular. Have you heard the rumours that sometimes, right at the moment the sun crests the horizon, you can see a flash of green light? It’s the light that leads to the land of the dead, where they float in Davy Jones locker, waiting to reach the other side.”

 

A few men shivered. Leblanc snorted. “Legend, no’sing more.”

 

“You’re not curious then? To see the light? I’ve seen it, many a time.”

 

Leblanc hesitated, gazing out across the dark waters. They’d chosen to attack a few hours before dawn because that was the time when most ships were calmest. Usually the only people up and about, especially out in the open ocean like this, were the bare minimum of men to keep the ship on course, and perhaps the cook - and all would be sleepy and complacent.

 

“I have heard the rumours, sir, what if she speaks the truth?” asked his First Mate, in their native tongue of French.

 

“What does it matter to us?” he replied and there was a ripple of interest from his men.

 

“It will come as we stand here arguing if you are not careful,” spoke the Woman, dispassionately, breaking up their conversation. “And then you will regret not paying attention.”

 

“And why iz zat?” sneered Leblanc. “I ‘ave seen a souzand dawnz.”

 

“Because,” she said simply, “this one will be your last. For if you are not careful, you will see your death on that horizon.”

 

For maybe two seconds, Leblanc really did consider simply throwing his sword straight at her and hoping it impaled her. “Enough!” He cut the air with the blade, though it stayed solidly attached to his hand. He wasn’t stupid enough to disarm himself.

 

But the woman, her son, and every crew member on board were no longer paying attention to him. They all stared out across the water to the horizon and the soft, white light that gathered at the edges and slipped over so gently it was hard to tell just at what point it crested. Except that the moment the very tip of the sun hit the water’s edge and cast its glow, the dawn shuddered and pulsed and a green-gold flash lit the horizon like new spring leaves. Leblanc gaped. A few men crossed themselves and stepped back.

 

The Pirate King turned back around, a small, secretive smile dancing on her lips. “Monsieur Leblanc, I hope you are ready to die.”

 

“It waz a green light, no’sing more!”

 

“And with it flies death. Yours.”

 

“Mother,” the boy, William, piped up from the other side of the deck. His captor had stopped paying attention to keeping him close and bound, and he was free to speak and squirm. “Mother, will Father be able to stay long this time?” The look on his young face appeared almost excited.

 

Leblanc frowned. He remembered a rumour then, one of the more outlandish ones, the one that said the Pirate King was actually married to Davy Jones. Surely...but no. Surely Davy Jones could not truly exist?

 

“I don’t know, poppet. It depends on Calypso. She is ever changing. Sometimes she is gracious, sometimes she is unkind.”

 

“I will ask her. Excuse me, can you let me go now?”

 

Leblanc really couldn’t think of anything appropriate to say to the utter absurdity of the boy and his mother. A captive, asking politely to be let go with the expectance that it would happen? Ridiculous!

 

Capitaine! Regarde!” One of his men pointed at the horizon, a sickly pallor to his face, eyes wide and wild.

 

“Diable! Mais qu’est-ce que c’est que ça…” he breathed. “Zat iz….?”

 

Indeed, what looked to be a ship climbed steadily from the water. It had appeared out of nowhere, far too close to have been able to stay unnoticed until now, and it was rising out of the water!

 

Leblanc began to quickly reconsider those rumours and legends of Davy Jones.

 

C’est The Flying Dutchman!”

 

Leblanc felt a smidgen of fear creep over him. It couldn’t be...It really couldn’t be! He whirled on the King. “What iz zat! Tell me what iz zat!”

 

She merely laughed. She spread her arms and spun to face the ship ghosting across the water at speeds that should be impossible. The very wood almost seemed to be lit from within like a will ‘o wisp. That was a ghost ship if ever there was one. “I told you, didn’t I?” She shouted over the unsettled reactions of the mutinous crew. Over the cursing and the praying. “My husband doesn’t like it when someone tries to kill me. On the water, I am invincible!” She turned back, eyes glinting with a dark edge. “And you are a fool.”

 

Suddenly, a franticness seized his chest. He gestured wildly with his sword. “Kill ‘er! Quickly!” This was no longer time for negotiation or chit-chat.

 

But the men that had her surrounded hesitated. Their eyes rolled, yellow and white with fear. Most of them were too busy watching the approaching ship and the way it moved so seamlessly without a single crew member to be seen.

 

And then Leblanc felt it. A cool, misty breath on the back of his neck. There was someone behind him. He looked up, first into the eyes of the Pirate King - except her eyes weren’t on him, they shone with a sparkle and a smile on something - or someone - behind him. His gaze trailed to the young boy, who was grinning, eyes too gazing just beyond Leblanc’s own head.

 

“So…” breathed a soft, male voice in his ear. “You intend to kill my wife?”

 

Leblanc whirled, sword out and slashing. It met sparks in the form of another blade - a fine blade, strong and sharp - and a young man dressed just like any other pirate vagabond. A bandana wrapped around his long brown hair, a white tunic shirt, open, displaying a hint of a terrible scar, and simple black pants. But it was the look in his eye that scared Leblanc the most, and the way he moved soundlessly on the deck...and the fact that he was here, on the ship, without a whisper or a word.

 

“Who…” Leblanc choked, sword raised defensively, though his arm trembled just a little in shock.

 

“William Turner, Captain of the Flying Dutchman, at your service, pirate. And that lovely woman behind you is my wife, Elizabeth.” His gaze flickered to the side, briefly, where a young William Turner was just about bouncing on his toes. As soon as he noticed his father’s regard, he beamed. “Father!”

 

“And my son,” Turner added with a soft smile. When he face Leblanc again, his gaze became frosty. “So, tell me, whatever possessed you to think you could hurt them on my watch?”

 

“I…” Leblanc was at a loss for words. “What…’Ow…?”

 

“Let the boy go,” Captain Turner spoke (and wasn’t that irritating, having two Captain Turners to refer to?).

 

When the pirate holding onto young William hesitated, there was a strange kind of shiver that passed through the wood of the ship and suddenly, the man was no longer breathing, for there was a sword tip sticking out of his chest and he was choking on his own blood. Captain Turner of the Dutchman calmly wiped the blade on the back of the man’s grimy shirt and stepped over the body. Leblanc blinked in shock. Seconds ago, the man had been facing him.

 

“Witchcraft…” he breathed. Men crossed themselves. Some went down on their knees and turned their faces upwards to the heavens and prayed.

 

“Papa!” the boy cried joyously, and wrapped his arms around the impossible Captain. Turner sheathed his sword and crouched down so he could hug the boy, regardless of the rest of the pirates on board, whose shaking swords pointed at his unprotected back. Either he didn’t care, he was just that confident or…

 

...or the rumours were true, and he couldn’t die. Already he’d moved soundlessly, appeared and disappeared, and they said that the Captain of the Flying Dutchman was undying; Davy Jones himself. This man called himself Turner, but…

 

“What are you?”

 

Turner looked up, face set in stone. “Your worst nightmare.” He stood, arm still around the boy. He tucked his chin, eyes crinkling as he gazed at his son. “Go to your mother while I finish up here.”

 

Young William nodded quickly. “Yessir!” No one tried to impede his progress past the ring of pirates surrounding his mother. He stood in front of her proudly and crossed his arms, daring anyone to approach. The Captain straightened his tunic and put a hand on the hilt of his blade. “Now, explain yourselves.”

 

There was an explosion of babbling and curses. The only ones silent were the crew of the Pirate King and the King herself. Turner stood with his arms crossed and a deadly look on his face. Behind him floated his ship, still mysteriously barren and shining oddly.

 

Leblanc had had enough. As his men babbled and whined about mistakes and set-ups, he raised his sword and gritted his teeth. He didn’t care about the rumours. A man was still a man. So long as he stabbed him through the heart, he should die, even if he had uncanny abilities or longevity.

 

“Attack!” he screamed, and in the confusion that followed, launched himself forward, sword first, and ran the man straight through.

 

In retrospect, Leblanc realised Turner hadn’t moved not because he couldn’t or wasn’t skilled enough, but because he saw no reason to move. Mostly because the moment Leblanc yanked his sword out triumphantly, Turner did not collapse or cough up blood. He did not groan or moan or do more than simply straighten himself out, rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck. Leblanc stumbled back, horrified. It couldn’t be real...none of this could be real! They were just stories and rumours to frighten the sea-faring, that was all!

 

“I always have to let them run me through at least once,” said Turner - who should not be speaking at all - conversationally. “Otherwise they cling to hope. But once they see that nothing they do will change their fate...well, it goes a lot easier after that.” He paused to draw his sword. “Now, normally I merely ferry the dead, but this time I’ll create the dead, Calypso willing.”

 

Leblanc whimpered.

 

Turner cocked his head to the side. “Yes...even she would not protest this, I think. She knows she would have no captain otherwise.”

 

Leblanc really had no idea what the being was talking about. Did it really matter though? He was going to die, run through by Davy Jones himself - or at least his avatar. He wet his lips, his throat feeling dry, his chest constricting in panic and resignation. “I…”

 

“Don’t beg. It just makes it that much more ridiculous.” Leblanc could hear the mild derision in Tuner’s tone. “Men, bring them to meet the Locker.”

 

At first Leblanc didn’t know who Turner was addressing. The King’s men were still tied up and weaponless, although that would likely change as he noticed they had begun to shimmy out of their ropes (though he had more important things to worry about now). But then the most disturbing thing yet happened - from the woodwork of the ship - from the masts and the railings, from the deck and the bulkheads, they all came creeping out, tearing away from the wood like it was nothing more than fine gauze. Every single one of the men was pale and silent, like the walking dead.

 

...the walking dead.

 

These were the men drowned at sea. The lost. The ones that slept in Jones’ Locker. And this man...being...had called them from the depths to slaughter his men.

 

In that instant he knew that all the stories were true. He knew why Elizabeth Turner was Pirate King and why when Elizabeth Turner said jump, you jumped. Why no one dared touch a hair on her head and why Jack Sparrow, and Teague, and Barbossa and all the Singaporean barbarians followed her. Why even the Royal Navy could not touch her.

 

Because she had death in her pocket. It was Death who loved her and kept her. She truly was a witch, and her son was an abomination. And this being who masqueraded as a man came at her beck and call to drag her enemies down to the deep.

 

And that was why no one messed with the Pirate King.