Thanks for the reviews as ever! I really love hearing what you think of the story so far! In this chapter, plans must be made...
The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves,
The brilliant moon and all the milky sky,
And all that famous harmony of leaves,
Had blotted out man's image and his cry.
A girl arose that had red mournful lips
And seemed the greatness of the world in tears,
Doomed like Odysseus and the labouring ships
And proud as Priam murdered with his peers;
Arose, and on the instant clamorous eaves,
A climbing moon upon an empty sky,
And all that lamentation of the leaves,
Could but compose man's image and his cry.
William Butler Yeats - The Sorrow of Love
Chapter Sixty Nine – How Do You Tell someone?
I don't think a night sleeping on a spindly couch was what I had needed at all. When I woke the next morning and tried to sit up, a wave of exhaustion hit me with such force that I knew it had to be borne from more than just tiredness. I sat for a few moments and tried to collect my balance as the room tiled on its axis, and I wasn't entirely sure if it was dizziness or if the ship really was rocking like that. James was already awake and back at his desk once more. He seemed engrossed in whatever he was doing and I didn't want to disturb him, so I said nothing and made my way quietly across the room to where I kept my things.
"Are you alright?" I jumped at the sound of his voice and turned to him quickly to find that he was watching me curiously.
I threw him an incredulous look. "As well as anyone else is when they've just woken up. Why?"
He shook his head slowly. "No matter." He turned his attention back to his work then, and I thought our conversation was over until he spoke again. "I've agreed to a meeting with some of our fellow travellers this morning. We really all ought to decide what lies next for us as a group or as individuals. The Turners and my former officers will attend, and I have agreed to the pirate Anamaria's presence. She can represent Sparrow, for I will not have him in this cabin. This is the one free Sparrow space aboard this whole ship and I will not have it disturbed. Besides, your friend Anamaria appears to have a more level head."
"I'm sorry that you feel so stuck by Jack Sparrow," I replied warily as I sat down closer to him. "But I can imagine a meeting involving both of you wouldn't run so smoothly so I suppose you are right to have Anamaria speak for him. She can fairly speak her mind though so you should still be wary of offending her."
"I'll take that into consideration," he replied with a nod. "They'll be here shortly so if there is anything you wish to say yourself; you should think on it now."
"Well if we're both still going along with what the other says, why can't you just speak for us both?"
James threw me a sharp look then. "Because you do not always agree with the decisions I make, Fiona. You did not wish to go to The Tidless haven, and whilst I understood your apprehension, I did override that decision. I think perhaps you were right to be wary of such a place. I should have given more consideration to what you said."
I frowned at him. "Just what is your next plan of action James if you don't mind me asking? Where would you have us go next?"
Whatever his reply might have been, it was drowned out by a curt knock on the cabin door. Gillette was the first to arrive, followed by the turners, Ambrose Beauchamp and Anastasia Turgenev. James's other former officers filed in afterwards, followed by a rather stoic looking Anamaria. So I wasn't to be allowed a moment or two to prepare for this discussion. It was going to be thrust upon me. My stomach lurched and I wasn't sure if that was because I feared what was about to be said in the next moments or because couldn't recall when I'd last eaten anything. I watched as everyone took their places around the table before I struggled to my feet again and limped towards an empty chair. The charts spread out over the table gave me cause for question and I glanced at Gillette, but he too appeared rather confused. If Gillette didn't know what was going on, then goodness knows what James was about to announce to the group.
"We've set a course for Virginia as you all now know," James announced without proper greeting to the group. I suppose it wasn't really needed. "We can re-stock our supplies there, but we shall also have the luxury of staying in an English-speaking town. That is why I have called this meeting. While we are there we can check which direction the wind blows in. We can take stock of where we have been and decide where we wish to go next. I should like to hear from any of you who may have any ideas about what we should do once we have visited Virginia. I know that there are things that I should wish to research and discover more about, which can be done in Virginia but there are many places that offer us such a chance. So, if anyone has thoughts on this matter, I should like to hear them now."
"What about The Crown of Immortality?" Will asked quietly from the other side of the table. I threw Elizabeth a stern glance, hoping it might encourage her to quiet her husband, but Elizabeth instead threw me her own harsh look. "Aren't you going to look for it? You've been looking for so long now that it seems strange to just put a halt to it."
James nodded slightly, as if it was taking him a little time to agree with Will's statement. I also think it might have been because it had been difficult for James to come to terms with the knowledge that he and Will Turner were for once on the very same page. "I do still intend to keep looking for that very object, Mr. Turner. However, we must not act rashly. Circumstances have changed somewhat. We must approach all of our endeavours with caution. I have lost a great deal of my authority. There will be doors now closed to us that were once open. We must try to research this crown more. I regret not doing so before I last left London."
"I'm sorry," I piped up anxiously. I was unable to sit quietly any longer. "But perhaps if you had done your research in London, you'd have realised the crown is the stuff of nonsense. There's no proof whatsoever that it exists. You have before you a golden sword and a chart that you found in a cave that no one else according to legend, has previously left alive. That is enough to be going along with. Should we not look into those two things first and work with what we've got for the time being? That is what we are all invested in! I doubt the pirates want to sail the seas endlessly with the former commodore and man who until only a few weeks ago wanted them hanging dead from a noose."
"I must agree with Miss O'Connell," Gillette announced very quickly. I was surprised at that. I thought James's ever loyal lap dog would go along with whatever it was that he said. It appeared I now had something of an ally in James's friend. I had not really thought on the fact that Gillette had known James for a very long time and he too could likely see how much his friend had changed. This new treasure hunting side of him was sure to be at odds with the man Gillette had been adamantly supporting for so many years.
"But why should we spend our time with our noses stuffed in books in some port town Fiona," questioned Elizabeth, "When there could potentially be more out there to discover in the world. Just think on what you and James have managed to find already. Isn't there the greatest chance you'd find more if only you'd dare to look for it?"
I let my head drop into my hands then. Gillette might have been on my side, but no one else would be. There would have been a time when I'd have hastened to agree with Elizabeth, but I'd been more carefree then. It all just seemed too reckless to go off on the hunt for treasure when we could just as well hole up somewhere safe and figure out what we could on land. Plus it would offer us the chance to evaluate things properly. Those of us that contemplated leaving the group would have the time and opportunity to figure out if it was the right course of action or not. Perhaps some of us also just needed a rest. I could see how Elizabeth's argument was going to play to James's new take on life. He had all but told me himself the evening before that he wanted adventure and Elizabeth was setting it all up for him.
"I do not think dry land is the safest place for us at any rate," James countered easily. "We stand more chance of being recognised and arrested. No, the sea offers us a blanket of anonymity that I am anxious to take full advantage of. We shall only stop for a short while in Virginia, and then we shall move on once more. We have many charts before us now that may lead us onto our next path." He glanced down at the table then as if reminding himself of what he had before him. "I have my own naval charts of course and there is also that which was found by miss O'Connell and myself." I wondered vaguely if I was Miss O'Connell once more because I had disagreed with him. "But there is also Drake's chart which I think holds some promise. I also have something else." James slipped his hand beneath the charts that covered the surface of the table and produced something else, the sketch I'd drawn of the chart in Townshend's cabin. In all of the dramatics of the last weeks I'd not just forgotten that James had it, I'd forgotten about it entirely. "This is a sketch Miss O'Connell drew from memory of a chart which she saw aboard another ship."
"From memory?" Ambrose Beauchamp asked as he glanced at me with curiosity.
I scrambled quickly to try and explain it away. "He's exaggerating! It's just a rough sketch!"
I threw a sharp glare at James who ignored it. "It may be a rough sketch," James countered. "But I have been studying it, Fiona. It's not dissimilar to Drake's chart. I'm surprised you did not see the similarities yourself but then you have been rather distracted of late. When we spoke in Port Royal about Drake's chart, I told you that I thought there were another three out there somewhere. I now wonder if one at least may be at the bottom of the sea with Townshend's ship."
I could feel my temper rising and I tried to supress it. I still had that strange nauseous feeling and I felt exhausted, but I could feel my face beginning to redden as I let my anger get the better of me. James had all but disclosed what I could do with maps and charts to the whole group. It was a secret I had trusted him with and he'd fed me to the lions. I was beginning to see that he was using my skills as a bartering chip with which he could win over the support of the rest of the ship. Of course they'd all agree to follow someone who could keep maps in her head and draw them from memory like some sort of witch.
"Distracted?" I asked coolly, aware that everyone had turned to watch me. "I don't agree with that. I've been focused on trying to keep us all alive. One of the men who wants us all dead is after all my uncle. It's partly my fault-"
"No one thinks that Fiona," Elizabeth cut in.
"Even so," I continued. "We need to work with what we've got. These maps led to The Tideless Haven, so I can understand why you all think there's the chance of more treasure. I'm not here for treasure though. I'd rather focus on staying alive and working out what that sword can do for us."
"We can do both. I think Fiona has a point James," Elizabeth stated. "We visit Virginia and spend some time there researching with whatever materials we find there. Then we study the charts again. We find out what importance the sword holds, and we look into the crown if we have time. The sword should take precedence as we actually have it to hand, but I understand the allure of the crown. We need to try and match everyone's desires here. We can do all of that together if we all just agree to err on the side of caution."
I could see very quickly that I'd lost. Elizabeth had tried to include me in things, but I knew only too well that she wanted adventure as much as every pirate aboard the ship. Saying she agreed that we should be more careful was not really including my point of view in things. All of James's men were quiet because they were willing to follow him anywhere. Gillette appeared a little disgruntled, but he knew that he and I had been swiftly outvoted. That left only the pirates and the lovesick couple who thought their budding romance was entirely secret even though everyone already knew they were holding hands beneath the table.
"What say you, cousin?" James asked Ambrose then. He and Anastasia shared a glance before he spoke. "Anastasia and I are grateful to all of you for allowing us to accompany you thus far, but I think we may remain in Virginia when we make port there. A ship is not Anastasia's home and I may still be able to salvage my commission in the navy if I can bend the ears of the right man. We are both decided on a quieter life but that does not mean that we will not help you. You will all be welcome with us should you ever need shelter, and a man on the inside where the navy is concerned can only be a bonus."
"You're not staying with us?" I asked Anastasia.
She shook her head meekly. "You have all been so kind to me," She said in her thick Russian accent, "But this is not my life. I need to return to land and mourn my father properly. I must also begin putting his affairs in order. I must write to my family in Russia and try to put things right. Things will be rather disorganised, and my grandmother has no head for business and figures. It has been left unattended for too long."
Ambrose was watching her as if drinking all of her in. "I should like to help with all of that." I rolled my eyes. Of course he would like to help. He was lost to any other cause now.
"That is settled then. In Virginia you shall part from us," James agreed. "But you shall always be welcome with us in future if the notion should so take you, or if you run afoul of the law." James turned to Anamaria then. "What is the pirate view on all of this?"
Anamaria smiled somewhat wickedly, as if she revelled in being amongst us all even though she hated everything that James and his friends stood for. "The pirate view? We agree in safety in numbers and we agree in hunting for treasure. We are agreeable to remaining as one large crew aboard The Surgence for the time being. We hope that our compliance will result in favourable treatment and just rewards." I think a few of us snorted when she'd spoken of compliance. Each and every pirate aboard was little more than a nuisance. It was true that we needed the manpower to sail such a large ship but a lot of us thought that a slower and trickier pace would be bearable if only we could get Jack Sparrow out from under foot. "There is another suggestion I might make however, which goes directly against Jack Sparrow's wishes. There is perhaps someone that you should visit who might be able to help you all make better sense of things. You could go to Tia Dalma."
"NO!" I cried from across the table before anyone else could ask who Tia Dalma was. I glared at Anamaria pointedly. "Why would you even suggest that? If even Jack Sparrow is wary of her, then I think it tells us all we need to know about her! We shouldn't go anywhere near her! She thrives on spells and tricks! That would be a disaster for us all!"
"Who is Tia Dalma?" James hurriedly asked before anyone could say anything else.
"No one really knows," Anamaria replied as she dodged my gaze. "But she might be able to help you and Fiona make sense of the treasure you've already found. She may also know about the crown. It's worth asking her I think, as she sees all of what happens on water. She knows everything."
"Only because she uses people. She gets inside their heads! She's not to be trusted," I exclaimed hotly. I could feel my face reddening further with sheer frustration. Why Anamaria had suggested Tia Dalma I still don't know, but I do suppose she only meant to help.
"If you say she isn't trustworthy, then I am inclined to agree with you," James concluded.
Anamaria shrugged. "I never said she was trustworthy either. She isn't. She's the type that you have to play at her own game. But there are things she knows about…"
I shook my head at her solemnly. "It's not even worth it, Anamaria. Surely you know she tried to trick me once and it was only for Mick putting a stop to it that she failed. I swore I wouldn't go near her again. She's always one step ahead too. I don't even know how you'd try to play her at her own game."
"Jack will be pleased you've come to that conclusion. She frightens him."
Gillette smirked. "Frightens Jack Sparrow? Well I never."
James stood up then and began to roll up the charts. There was a time before when I might have rushed to help him, but I stayed put in my seat this time. "I think we've come to somewhat of an agreement then," he said to the group at large. "We make port in Virginia and see what we can find out there, and then we study these charts for any anomalies and investigate them." As everyone else took that as their queue to leave and filed out of the cabin, I remained seated at the table, still trying to mull over everything that had been said. I wasn't quite sure I understood where this new version of James had come from. He was as reckless as a pirate, as ambitious as one. "You think my quest a foolish one?" James asked me quietly after a few moments of silence. I hadn't even realised he was still in the cabin.
"You're searching for something that doesn't exist, are you not?" I asked. "My uncle who has never been a trustworthy man mentions a crown of immortality and you just take his word for it that this crown is a real object to be found? Don't you think if my uncle thought it real that he'd have been out on the sea looking for it himself? Why would he commission you to sail around the world for it? You might not have given it to him if you'd found it. Look at the sword. You had no intentions of giving him that sword to appease him."
"I'd have given him the sword if I thought it might have saved you," James countered evenly. "He didn't want it though. He never wanted treasure that badly. It was a novelty to him. He wanted to be a treasure seeker like every other rich man in London and so he offered me a commission. Didn't you know it's all the range lately? No, he had his sights firmly set upon you from the outset. That's why he sent Hawkins with me. You must surely know all of this by now. He sent Hawkins to search for you and he knew he'd have protection aboard a ship commanded by me. He also thought that I'd give Hawkins my backing and escort you back to London and into your uncle's arms with no questions asked."
"There's a part of me that thinks you would have done that at the start," I mused quietly. I rubbed the side of my head then as I felt the beginnings of a headache wash over me. I stood up and pushed the chair back beneath the table as if signalling an end to our conversation.
"Really? You think I would not even have questioned you about how you came to be at sea in the first place. You think I would not eventually have noticed that there was something amiss? I knew almost right away after all that you were not all that you seemed. I knew there was more to you than what you first presented yourself as. I would not have sent you off with Hawkins without first ascertaining that it was what you wanted. I will admit that I might not have been so ready to listen to all of the valid points you have since made about a woman's right to freedom but I think I am decent enough that I would not have sent you back into the home of a man if you did not wish to go. Even if he was your protector, if you'd protested enough, I think I'd have come to understand that you would not feel safe with him. Even if you had said nothing, you know I did not trust Sidney from the moment I met him. I took his commission for want of occupation, but I understood that he likely had schemes of his own. Looking back, I wish I had not taken his money for I know not how he came by it."
I rolled my eyes and gripped the back of the chair to keep myself grounded and in the room because my head was spinning. "Yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, James. You say all this to me now that you know the truth but when you took us all off The Black Pearl that day, you only spared my life because you thought you owed Mick a debt. You did not want to open your eyes to see and understand the life I might have lived. You used me, back then. You might not want to think about it, but you did. You've admitted to me since that you were in the wrong. You were keeping me hostage in a sense. I feel like you're almost doing it again. Why on earth would you just tell everyone on this ship about that sketch? You've basically outed me to everyone! It's almost as if you're using me as the bait to keep them all onside! Funny thing is they are all already your friends! They are predisposed to like and agree with everything you've said and yet you still felt as if you had to use me! It's a cruel trick and I won't be played again! Do you think I want to sit back and just watch you peacocking in front of Elizabeth, all the while using the skills I've got to try and keep her on side and near you? I'll go to Virginia with you, but you'd better have your mind made up by the time we get there! I think once we're there we should get an annulment. Heaven knows we've enough witnesses aboard this ship that could help us get it. Then we can go our separate ways!"
"Are you sure you're alright?" James questioned. "You are quite pale."
"Why would I not be alright?" I cried. "I'm just sick of everyone asking me how I am every five minutes as if they are expecting me to self-combust or something!"
James appeared a little unsettled by my reply but seemed to brush off his concern. "I am not trying to use you and I am not intending to pester you," James countered slowly. "I thought I was showing an unwavering belief in what you had shown me. I see now that I should have discussed the matter with you beforehand. I did not realise you wanted to keep it so secret. As for asking after your wellbeing, you are indeed pale. You look exhausted."
"So what if I am?" I roared. "Women can't always be the picture of health you know! Sorry if it offends your delicate gentleman's ears James but we bleed for a week once every month and it's not exactly a breeze. Sometimes it makes us appear a little peaky. It affects us at all times for all four weeks of a month even though we never let on or tell a soul. As for the sketch, it's not as if anyone else aboard talks about it is it?" I snapped at him before I could stop myself. "Surely you must have known no one else but you knew about it! You're right. You should have spoken to me first. Now everyone knows and there's no way to change that. I don't want to be gawked and marvelled at over a simple sketch of a map!"
"I never intended to cause you offence or make you feel uncomfortable. You appear to think your gift is not that of a gift at all but more of a hindrance. I believed I was trying to offer you my support so that you may grow to see things differently."
"It is a hindrance now. I don't want everyone asking me questions about it. I don't even want to be stood here arguing about all of this. We'll go to Virginia and we'll get you an annulment and we can separate. You can go after your treasure all you want then without me in your ear!"
"What about the sword and the map?" James asked. "You found them. They're yours."
I shook my head. "Don't try and reel me back in. I don't care about treasure, remember. They're all yours. Do what you like with them and leave me well out of it!"
I threw the door wide open with a lot more force than I thought I had in me and it made a racket as it bounced off the wall. I didn't trouble myself to close it behind me and stormed out onto deck, the bright sun immediately blinding me. Shielding my eyes from the sun, I limped across the deck towards the bow, determined to hide away as far from James as possible for the rest of the day. It was strange to see the ship doused in such warm sunlight after the storm we'd all experienced only days before. On any other day I might have basked in such glorious sunshine, but that I day I was cursing it. The happy weather appeared to want to mock my foul mood. I wished I'd thought to lend a hat from someone as a shield for my eyes for I knew my headache was only going to worsen in the heat. I wasn't about to go below decks again though for another potential argument with James, so I resisted all temptation.
I grabbed a basket of old rope that needed untangled and dragged it to the bow with me. I climbed up to sit on a barrel and began the painstaking work of untangling it, feeling for the entire world as if I should just go back to bed. I'd not felt so drained in a very long time, not even when The Grace had made port and we'd all got a little too worse for wear in one of the taverns. I sorely missed those nights of drunken laughter and singing, and the mornings after when there was just something about a collective hangover amongst friends to actually make you feel better. We'd search out the best food in whatever town we were in and feed ourselves up so that we weren't ill when we made it back out to sea. The laughs we had shared about our antics of the night before would be the tonic to all sorts of pain and strife. It really had been a wonderful six years, but perhaps that was all we were destined to have together. Can you really go through life like that, just ambling along and enjoying the pace? Travelling all over and seeing amazing sights but not really going anywhere in your own person, staying the same for all of time? Perhaps I always needed to leave Mick behind to finally grow up, to leave behind sixteen-year-old me who trusted so easily and thought the worst of my life was behind me. I'd certainly never have crossed James's path with such impact if I had not had to leave Mick and Patrick behind.
After hours sat in the sunshine picking old ropes apart, my mood had soured even more, as had my headache. A strange metallic taste had filled my mouth too, but I thought it best to sit it out, ignoring the call that went up to announce that there was food in the galley for everyone. I didn't feel like I could stomach it and so I stayed where I was as everyone else filed below deck for food. I was strangely grateful and surprised that it was Will Turner who brought me two large tankards, one of water and one of cider after he'd returned from his own lunch. I was glad he did not think to bring food though as I'd have had to refuse it and that would have drawn attention. He did not leave though when he'd left my drinks with me. He pulled himself up to sit on the barrel beside me and leaned back against the railings to let the sun's rays at his already tanned features.
"Sulking won't help, you know. I've tried it. It only causes more issues," he stated mildly. When I turned confused eyes upon him, he nodded in the direction of the quarter deck where James stood at the helm. "You were both right this morning. Why not discuss it and try to come to some sort of compromise?"
"We did," I replied swiftly and perhaps a little too sharply. I sighed heavily. "Sorry, I'm just rankled is all. "We only seem to argue now when we try to discuss things of actual importance. We are both decided in our own opinions. That's a good thing for us as individuals but when we want to be on the same page as one another it causes friction. I've relented because he likely is more right than I am. He's a proper man of the world after all, but I can't say that I will relent again. You and Elizabeth may have a choice to make soon enough. James and I will likely separate. Whilst I like you both very much, I won't take offence when you choose James. Besides, I'd only cause you both more trouble and strife if you stayed with me. I think it's best if I take myself off alone. I'll give James the annulment he wants, and we can go our separate ways and there will be no hard feelings between us both."
Although Will appeared to be leaning back to enjoy the sunshine, I could still feel his eyes on me. "Is that really what you want?" he asked me. "Just because you think it is the right thing to do doesn't mean you should do it. Life is too short for that; I've come to realise. Just do what you want and to hell with everyone else."
"I'd be leaving to save everyone else."
Will laughed harshly. "Look how well that turned out last time. Norrington might come after you again if you do that."
I shook my head. "Not if he knows it's what we both want. Besides, whatever happens between us now, I think we are bound together. No matter where we go, I think we shall always be able to find out way back to one another. I am the Andromeda to his Perseus, after all. There's something in all of that; some kind of destiny. We'll be together again at some point."
"Does he know that? Does he know you are the Andromeda to his Perseus? If he knew, he might be able to understand everything you've been saying. It might make him more agreeable to your choices."
I shrugged then and took a large gulp of the lukewarm cider to disguise the wave of nausea that creeped over me in that moment. "I don't know if now is the right time to tell him."
"When will be?" Will asked as he jumped down from the barrel again and raised his eyebrows at me before turning to go back to whatever job he had taken up that day.
"How do you tell someone," I muttered under my breath as Will walked away from me," That the reason you are so upset is because you're in love with them?"
Will was right, of course. Everyone else around us was right. I was the one being stubborn and foolish. James had proven himself not just to be decent and trustworthy but to be thoroughly on my side in all matters. So what if we disagreed on a few things, even if they were important? We just needed to hash them out together as Will had said until we could find common ground. All of that I knew. I just didn't have the energy that day. I wondered vaguely if anyone would notice if I sneaked off back to bed for an hour or two until my headache eased a little and I glanced up to where James was at the helm. He was already gazing back at me. I took that answer to my question as a decided no. He beckoned to me to meet him at the helm, so I threw down the ropes I'd made little headway with and tried to push myself off the barrel. I knew something wasn't right when my feet landed on the deck. My legs felt like Jelly and wouldn't hold my weight. My head was no longer pounding, but instead felt like it was filled with spun wool. I clung to the side of the barrel to keep myself upright as my vison began to blur. I immediately searched out James even though everything was twisted and distorted to my eyes. I finally caught the brown hue of his new civilian coat but there were two of him. I moved one of my feet forward, hoping that if I could just reach James I'd be alright. I'd have to let go of the barrel to do so though. I'd lost sight of him again. Now I know that was because he had realised something was wrong too. He was already on the steps, making his way down them and towards me. I finally released the barrel from my grip and immediately felt excruciating pain in my knees as the deck came up to meet them. Someone was calling my name, but I couldn't answer them. It was all I could do to try and keep myself upright. I was swaying from side to side, no longer able to make anything out because my vision was so blurred. Just as I felt my grip of reality loosen and my eyes fluttered closed, I felt myself falling.
In the next chapter, we find out what has befallen Fiona, and how it will shape the rest of our story...