Chapter 13: 1743 The Captain and the Mermaid
When Caithleen opened her eyes the next morning after having had just about two or three hours of sleep the place beside her within the berth was empty. She must have been fast asleep that Jack succeeded in sneaking out of their bed without waking her up.
While she rubbed her eyes to get rid of her tiredness she asked herself what it might be that dragged Jack out of his sleep that early. For sure it was something very important. Something which was bearing no delay.
Caithleen knew that he wanted to use the upcoming flood to set sail in the afternoon. The "Pearl" was provided with supplies and everything they had been in need of and the freight room as well as the stowage were filled to the brim with barrels of wine, rum and water, with crates of lemons, oranges and pineapples and sacks of sugar, flour and salt. They had stored enough grain and hay to feed the hens and the goats with they had aboard and lots of other trifle had been brought aboard as well. Therefore there was no need to stay at Tortuga any longer. Jack made no secret of the fact that he the same as she longed for spending some days within their little cottage high above the cliffs again.
Caithleen smiled. She wrapped herself in the blanket again and buried her face midst the cushions. They scented of him and they still kept his warmth – a lovely afterglow of their shared night.
Once again she inhaled the scent of the man she loved then, finally, she sat up with a sigh and slipped into her clothes.
As soon as she appeared on the deck Marty hurried towards her: "Miss Caith, Captain's order. He wants you to ready the ship for cast off. He wants to sail as soon as he's back."
"As I know you you're already working at it, eh?" Caithleen replied with a smirk.
"Well then, as it seems there's nothing else for me to do but wait I fear. But it's better not to strain our luck. I know our Captain much too well. We should better not leave anything to chance and be really ready to cast off. It could be possible that we have to leave in a hurry..."
"We're used to it, Miss", Marty answered: "can believe me that confidently..." He shrugged and added: "But we're all aboard his vessel because he's the one he is..."
Caithleen gave him a grin: "I understand! Did he say anything why he went to town that early?"
"Nothing, Miss Caith. All he said was, you were in the know about what to do..."
She rolled her eyes. For sure she was in the know about what he expected her to do – he wanted her to set sail and to head to the open ocean equal if he returned aboard or not. That was why she nodded and remarked: "I know it! Better we follow his order the way he expects us to..."
It was still early in the morning when Jack hurried through the narrow lanes of the town. Except several drunk sailors who stumbled out of the taverns and the brothels and a handful of harlots being on their way home after having had a long night only some straying cats and dogs were to spot round the place. Somewhere upon a dunghill a cock crowed in vain to wake up the tired inhabitants of Tortuga.
Jack headed straight for the "Pirate's Lass". He wanted to ask the innkeeper if Joshamee Gibbs or van Dyck left letters or other pieces of news for him meanwhile.
Just when he sashayed round the next corner to reach the lane which led directly towards the infamous tavern he noticed the group of English soldiers who spied every street – up to the most narrow lanes – every entrance and even the spring in front of the inn.
Jack did not hesitate. He moved rapidly back into the shadow of the building he just came around and tried to find out what or who it was the men were searching for. He was convinced that it was not by chance that the English appeared on the isle of Tortuga just a few weeks after the fortress of Madagascar fell. It couldn't be by chance.
Did they know that he and his "Black Pearl" lay for anchor within the bay of Tortuga?
And if they were in the know about it who told it to them?
Jack wasn't willing to believe in contingencies. Much more he supposed Tomlinson to be hell-bent to lead his hunt for the last pirates within the Caribbean to a successful and satisfying end. Obviously the men did not search for him or his "Pearl" but he knew very well how quickly this could change. An unthought spoken word, a remark made while being totally drunk or just a vague assumption could possibly lead him into lots of trouble and that was something he wanted to avoid by all means.
He sighed and had a last look at the tavern which was out of reach for him now although it lay just a few steps afar. His decision was made. All those possibly deposited pieces of news Gibbs or van Dyck may have left there for him had to wait. It was much more important for him to reach the port and the pier unseen and unchallenged.
Just when he wanted to leave the place silently and unnoticed someone grabbed him by his shoulder with a firm and determined grip, dragged him into a dark backyard and pushed him ungentle into a skew shed.
Jack wasn't able to recognize that stranger – he hid his face behind the broad collar of his dark coat – and because the man decided neither to talk to him nor to give off any other sound or noise he tried to find out who it was by using another way.
It took him some effort to turn his head round underneath the firm grip but when he finally succeeded he was able to behold the hand of the man who still kept hold on him. It was knaggy and nearly every finger was adorned with a valuable ring.
A bitter smile appeared upon Jack's lips. He knew who it was who pushed him into this shed, covertly, without a word and without any sign or hint why. Jack closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again there was an astonishing cold hidden underneath his mostly soft gaze and his voice had also an icy undertone.
"To which extraordinary circumstance do I own the honor of your presence?" Jack asked sarcastically: "Three times within three years? That's really amazing don't you think as well? You did not worry about anything concerning me in years. Not about me or where I spent all those years and for sure not about the question why I turned my back on Shipwreck Island. So what is it that leads you here? Something must have changed within the bygone years otherwise you would not be interested in me that lively. Is it because I went back from a place no one is supposed to return from? Is it because I found Whitecap Bay and the Fountain of Youth and returned unharmed? Or is it because you want me to hunt for another mystery? Eh...?" He shook his head: "Barely as I dare to assume. And for sure not because you finally found out who I am and what it is we're bound by? Oh, no! I think it's because you want me to return this shrunken head to you, am I right? So, tell me, if it is nothing of what I asked you: Why are you here?" He hesitated for a split second until he added: "Hi dad!"
The stranger loosened his grip he still held Jack with by his shoulder and pushed back the collar of his coat. Within the matutinal twilight appeared the weathered face of Edward Teague: "Jackie, you should stop matching me on our shared past. Since you went back to Shipwreck Cove a lot did happen, boy..."
"Oh please, not another riddle! There are still a lot of unanswered questions concerning the last quest you sent me to before you chose to leave me the last time. And my inimitable sense for the human soul tells me that it could be possible that it might not please you to answer said still not answered questions! Aye?"
Teague ignored him and went on: "So it's not a rumor what I came to hear. You found the Fountain of Youth and you survived. And you got your ship back as well as your girl..."
"If you're already in the know about it then I suppose you to be also in the know about what the price was we had to pay..."
Teague had a look behind him. A stairway led to the house the crate obviously belonged to. A mild smile appeared upon his lips while he placed himself on one of the steps. He gazed at Jack and his smile got broader: "No one promised to you that the quest would become an easy task, boy. You had been in the know about the fact that the Fountain would prove you."
"Thanks a lot! But what if I tell you that not the Fountain had been the worst thing I came across? It wasn't, can tell you that! Believing in your explanation it belonged to the mysterious and long ago predefined path of my life that I had to end up aboard Blackbeard's ship, eh...?"
"Otherwise you never ever would have been able to learn about the real secret of the Fountain and its hidden dangers."
"That's calming! Don't expect me to thank you on my knees because you trusted in my skills! A single hint of a bow should do." He indicated a bow and took his tricorn off his head in front of his father than he continued with a half bitter and a half cynical undertone within his voice: "Maybe I should generally thank you for your infinite trust in me. I only fear it's that infinite that you missed to let me in on your plans and your unique kind of truth!"
"You will find out some day, that there are a lot of different kinds of truth, Jackie..."
"C'mon, dad, don't bother me! You're exactly in the know which of those uncountable and for sure extraordinarily fascinating and breathtaking kinds of truth is meant! Don't you think as well that it is time to tell me the real truth about the typhoon, your ship and my mother?"
Jack pointed at the shrunken head he wore at his belt since his last visit at Shipwreck Cove. It was the shrunken head his father left to him the evening before the seafight against Beckett. It was the shrunken head his father wanted to make him believe with that it was a memory of his mother.
It was not the first time that Jack asked himself if this head really had been his mother's like Teague told it to him. He doubted it because if his father told him the truth it meant that the mermaid he came across at Whitecap Bay would have lied to him. But as often as he tried to find an answer to this mystery he found himself willing to believe what the beautiful creature of the sea told him, willing to believe that his mother belonged to those beautiful creatures as well.
Taking all these thoughts into consideration he had no doubt anymore where his love for the sea and for the open ocean came from. He must resemble his mother! Without fail!
But who was she?
All the memories he owned concerning his mother told him a different story. Everything he was able to remember told him that the woman he knew having been his mother could not have been a mermaid.
"She wasn't my mum, am I right?" Jack pointed once again at the shrunken head and suddenly he finally tended to trust in his inner voice and in his heart which both tried to convince him of this idea long ago: "She was one of your wenches, bought and paid for acting my mother!"
"Tell me, Jackie, does it mean a difference for you who your mother really was? There is no way to turn back time even if you would like to do it and there is no need for you to know it."
"Not?" Jack spat: "It's not that easy, mate! Knowing the truth would make it easier to explain and to understand a lot of things that happened as long as I lived within the fortress!"
Jack's eyes sparkled within the little light which fell into the crate through several small cracks the wooden door was perforated with. He beheld his father who kept silent and played with the rings his fingers were adorned with. Maybe he erred but for the first time ever Jack had the idea that his father looked old.
The man who saw every oddity ever thinkable, who knew every adventure and every sin life was able to provide one with and who took away his ship and his pride from him long ago seemed to look thoughtful and vulnerable.
He – Captain Edward Teague, keeper of the code and lord of Shipwreck Cove – stared at a spot in front of him not sure how to answer the questions his son just asked him.
Before the silence amongst them started to get almost unbearable Teague cleared his throat and had an open look into Jack's face: "If you really want to know the truth, Jackie, you should be aware of one aspect – which danger this truth could mean to you."
"As if I ever set an adventure aside just because of its dangers!" Jack said with a smirk while making a gesture including the crate as if it was a symbol for the entire world.
"Well then, I just fear not everything you'll come to know will please you in the end..."
"You should start telling me your story. Want to set sail with the change of tide and as you can imagine I'm not interested in seeing my ship sailing away without me for a third time. Savvy?"
Teague beheld the young man standing in front of him within the half-light. They had nothing in common except the eye-catching appearance. Jack neither resembled him nor the woman he knew as his mother when he had been a boy.
And how could he?
For he resembled her the creature from the depths, the beauty who blurred his senses and who blinded him.
All of a sudden Teague started telling his story: "She appeared at Shipwreck Island out of the nothing and no one round the whole isle was able to say who she was, where she came from or what her purpose was. She stood there as if she had always lived amongst us and who ever got asked had no other answer but one: she always belonged to the isle. Believe it or not, Jackie, even I was a young man some day and obviously she felt pleased when she came across me. We fell for each other and she stayed with me. Without a promise or a vow, without a priest or another blessing and without any bond. She was bewitching and lovely and although she never spoke a lot everyone knew what she wanted to tell them but if she spoke it sounded like the rolling of the sea, the wind in the sails and the sad song of a broken heart..."
Jack stared at his father not really sure if the man in front of him was the same as the one he knew as the man they always told him to be his father. As long as he knew him Teague used to be monosyllabically and tart and he wasn't able to remember his father having spoken to him that long ever before. So he cocked his head and listened to the story Teague told him.
"I asked her several times where she came from and where her family lived", Teague went on: "but she never answered my questions. Instead of she brought me good luck – that was what I told myself. My ship got spared from heavy damage, I brought lots of treasures home to the fortress and although I was still a young man the Council of the Brethren Court chose me to become the keeper of the code. As you can see I was a lucky man. Up to the day when two things started to destroy the idyll I believed to live in. Rumor got spread round the isle that she was supposed to be a witch, a demon, an unearthly creature who would demand a very special kind of payment from me some day..."
"And you really believed in it?" Jack leaned against one of the wooden piles holding the crate up and beheld his father the same thoughtful and surprised. So it was not the first time that the unique Captain Teague trusted in the suggestions others made to him instead of those who belonged to his family and friends when he took his ship away from him back then.
"Aye, Jackie, I believed it and I failed to ask her if anything of this rumor was true. Then the day came when she revealed to me that she was with child. My child! From this day on I never touched her again but drowned my distrust in rum and preferred to spend my nights in the arms of one of the wenches I found within the brothels round the isle. I wasn't willing to spend just one single night together with this thing once again that obviously tried to take possession of me. That was why I never noticed the moment when she started to fade. Up to today I'm not really sure why I took her aboard my ship several months later. I think it was her wish and I wasn't able to refuse it. She had never been afraid of the sea and even when the storm befell us she did not mind it. Today I would swear an oath that she loved the heavy weather, the spray on her face and the storm which tore at her hair. Somewhen the cry of a newborn child drowned the roaring typhoon and the ship's doctor handed a little boy over to me. She waited for me to join her within her cabin but even that I denied to her. It was the same night when she faded away..."
"She had no other choice, am I right? Love or death! She gave everything up because of the love she felt for you. She wasn't allowed to return to the sea and to her people and she couldn't stay amongst us with a broken heart. You dismissed her, you betrayed her..."
"I got my punishment soon enough, Jackie, for you're her spitting image. She was fair and gentle, everything she touched used to flourish. Her face seemed to be made of the finest china, her hair felt and looked like tender black velvet and within her eyes she seemed to keep all the secrets of the world. She gave herself up and gave everything to you she had left – her beauty, her wide awake mind, her love and her passion. And with every day my son grew up I had to realize that he resembled her and not me. You're a child of the sea, Jackie, you're the son of a mermaid, of a creature not supposed to live amongst us..."
Jack turned away from his father. He knew now what he always had guessed, he knew what he wanted his father to tell him but now after having heard this explanation he felt like having been betrayed and as if something was broken within him. The explanation his father gave him was no excuse for what they did to him back then on Shipwreck Island up to the day when he took flight...
Nevertheless Teague went on: "You own her eyes, Jackie, those soft dark eyes she always looked at me with. I couldn't bear it to look at you. I couldn't stand it that you loved the sea and that obviously the sea loved you as well. A small and slender boy, able to sail any ship of any kind, out on a foray whenever possible. A boy who dared to rebel against the code and the pirate law. You studied seacharts instead of taking part in a brawl. You buried yourself within books instead hunting for treasures and you preferred to free prisoners out of their cells instead of preparing yourself to become the heir to the keeper!"
"Oh, that's interesting! Let's make me a guess – that was why you left me to grandma and all those creatures you surrounded yourself with, eh?" Jack shook his head in disbelief: "You owned something only a few men are able to claim to possess as well but you chose to trust in men like Finch who reminded you that the code is the only law, the only thing to honor. Not your love, not your child – it's the code! I hope you don't want me to forgive you..."
"No, Jackie, I know that would be too much to ask you for and it's not the reason that led me here..."
"What is it then?"
"I'm here to warn you, boy..."
"What for? The English? I'm already in the know about that fact. From Chevalle and Villanueva? It's no secret! I know they wait for me..." Jack pushed off the pile he still leaned against and wanted to leave when something else came to his mind: "There is only one thing I would love to know someday. When the ship's doctor handed me over to you that day back then aboard your ship midst that typhoon – why did you not get rid of me? No one would have noticed it if you would have thrown me overboard..."
With it he greeted Teague and sneaked out of the door back into the narrow lane. The group of English soldiers did vanish and he hurried to get to the port unseen...
Caithleen felt how her uneasiness slowly found its way to the surface.
Something was definitely wrong. This morning was much too quiet for a port like Tortuga and even if no ship sailed into the bay or set sail for the open ocean at least the fishermen were supposed to ready their boats to lay out their nets.
She went quickly up to the helm where Cotton dozed within the morning sun his parrot by his side.
"The sun is rising!" Croaked the parrot: "The sun is rising!"
The same moment the weathered sailor jumped up – half scared, half relieved that it was only Caithleen who found him up here.
"No need for excuses, Mister Cotton. I just want to make sure that we won't lose time and be able to sail as soon as Jack is back. Course to the open ocean."
Cotton nodded and she hastened down the stairs again. When Mullroy and Murtogg stumbled out of the quarters still a little bit sleepy she dragged them both with her the same moment: "That's a happy coincidence, gentlemen, I want you to take care for the sails to be set immediately. It should look as if we just want to ready the ship for cast off but they should be ready to fall as soon as I'll give you the order."
"Any problems, Miss?"
"Not yet, but I'm not sure if it will remain that way. So please, hurry up!"
The next one Caithleen searched for was Marty. She found him within the galley. Between some bits of rask and something which looked like gruel she explained: "I want you to hide within the crow's nest and watch the pier and the lanes all around. It's not to exclude that our Captain might be in a hurry when he returns."
"That's nothing unusual, Miss." Marty gazed at her with a knowing smile.
"Well, I've nothing more to add then." Caithleen replied with a grin.
She gave him a wink and started searching for Pintel and Ragetti. They sat both on the rail, their fishing-rods within the water, when she joined them.
She grinned: "As I see you're eager to find us some ingredients for a tasty dinner? That's worthy of praise, gents! But as soon as you're finished with this relaxing activity I've a new task for both of you."
"Dinner sounds good Miss! You know best that we should keelhaul our cook. It's the right punishment thinking of all those crimes he commits within the galley!" Pintel vented his anger.
"Aye!" Ragetti agreed: "But I bet if we would do it not even the fish would find him tasty..."
Caithleen had to fight a laugh back. The two of them just described what she thought about the ship's cook for months. Nevertheless she managed to stay calm: "We won't keelhaul him – not yet – but I want you to drive the men on. We have to weigh the anchor."
"An urgent departure then?"
"Aye, Master Pintel. An urgent departure..."
Barely half an hour later loud yelling and screaming told the crew of the "Black Pearl" that it was time to take leave from the bay of Tortuga.
Followed by a group of angry and trigger-happy English soldiers who did not hit him just because of only one single reason – he twisted and turned – Jack hastened round a corner and headed straight towards the pier the "Pearl" was moored to.
"Weigh the anchor and set sail! Hurry! There is no time to wait for the change of the tide!" They heard his voice.
Caithleen nodded and within the same moment the sails fell. She grasped for her pistols and as agreed she and Marty fired on the dumbfounded soldiers. The same moment she went over to the rail to cut through the mooring lines.
"Oi! Stop! Not that immediately!" Jack jumped over some rolled up hawsers and some fishing nets while he wildly gesturing hurried towards his ship which slowly veered into the wind.
The plank fell down to the pier with a loud crack.
"Oh bugger!" Jack had a look around and spotted the soldiers who still followed him without regarding the shots the crew of the "Pearl" fired off on them and a curse left his lips. He did not hesitate any longer and jumped. When he went back to the water surface he grasped the rope Caithleen tossed over to him.
"Mermaids! The son of a mermaid!" He hissed: "That does not mean that I enjoy the fact to get permanently wet..."
***Enjoy***R & R***Constructive Critisim Appreciated***