Birds of a Feather

The Curse of the Black Pearl

Prologue

On the Fins of Fate


Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Gripping the old weathered book, Philip Swift's eyes ran over the passage again. The brown leather covering was worn, though the impressed image of a cross still remained. There were many places that had been hardened by now ancient splashes of water, and a few dozen of the delicate pages had been dog-eared. Throughout the book there were markings on the pages, some were notes about the scripture, others marked favourite passages, and a vast majority were connected to other verses to form various kinds of sermons.

This bible had quite literally been through hell and back. Through sickness and famine, safety and danger, from the chapels of London to the jungles of Africa. The book told as much about the travels of its owner as it did about itself.

But the one thing that stood out the most was the bloodstain on the back cover, a testament of the owner's death at the hands of the so called savages he had tried to convert.

Philip stared at the passage again; it was Deuteronomy 31:6, the tale of Moses. The young thirteen-year-old couldn't help but smile at the similarities between his story and the one of Moses. Sent from the banks of Egypt into the home of the Pharaoh, Philip too had been taken from the shores of Africa as a baby and raised by a rich couple, neither of whom were his parents. True, the couple he had been raised by were his mother's brother and said brother's wife, but the analogy still stood.

Although Philip hadn't spent nearly as much time with his father as he did his uncle, every moment he did was engrained into his mind. Years of scripture and Godliness surrounded the image of his father; Nathaniel Swift was a man of God from the day of his birth, living for the Lord and his word. His love for God and travel had made his career path clear; he was a missionary through and through. Though a hint of rebelliousness had attracted the wealthy Miss Rebecca Swann, and with a ring on his finger, bible in his hand, and God in his heart, Nathaniel and his wife spent years spreading the word throughout the jungles of Africa.

Rebecca had returned home to Philip and her brother, Weatherby more often than her husband, but she was rarely apart from Nathaniel for long. They made sure to be home at least a total of three months of the year with their son, Rebecca bringing home stories of adventures about cannibals and pirates, which interested Weatherby's daughter, Elizabeth a little too much for her father's liking.

The couple wished for more time with their son, but it was agreed that the wild jungles of Africa were too dangerous for a young child. But one day, shortly after learning to read, Philip opened a copy of the Bible he found in the library and soon became engrossed in tales of parting seas and lions' dens. When Nathaniel and Rebecca came home a month later, Philip begged his parents to take him with them so that he may spread God's word. After many years of begging, when Philip was eleven, Nathaniel finally gave in and promised to take him on his next trip upon his return. It was a friendly village Nathaniel had been to many times, so he saw no harm in bringing the boy along one time.

Unfortunately, a month later, Rebecca had returned home alone with the news that Nathaniel had been killed, and she escaped with nothing more than his bible, cross, and her own life.

To make matters worse, not only was Nathaniel's body never recovered, but Rebecca began to exhibit some strange symptoms, fevers, shakes, delirium and worse. The doctors were unable to figure out exactly what was wrong, chalking it up to some sort of tropical disease, and Rebecca Swift passed away only a year after her husband. Philip was then taken in permanently by Weatherby Swann and raised alongside his cousin Elizabeth... which was identical to the position they had been in before, but now with no choice in the matter.

Weatherby had also lost his wife three years ago due to some sort of fever, but being ten at the time, no one had bothered to tell Philip any specifics, and to the day, still had no clue what did Katherine Swann in.

The events were hard on Weatherby. Having lost his wife, sister and brother-in-law within the span of three years, and consoling his grieving orphaned nephew and motherless daughter took its toll on Weatherby, making him a might over-protective of the children and their wellbeing. He soon decided that London held too many bad memories for the children, and when he was asked by the King to take governorship of a place in Jamaica called Port Royal, Weatherby packed up the children and set sail aboard the HMS Dauntless.

Philip's hand ran over the bloodstain; he missed his father, but he knew Nathaniel died the way he wanted to, spreading the word of God.

He closed the book, tilted his head up, closed his troubled green eyes, and sighed. Selfishness is the root of sin, his father would always say; but could it truly be selfish to ask God to wait a little longer before taking the people Philip loved to the Kingdom of heaven? Was it truly a sin to ask for one more day?

"Yo, ho, yo, ho, it's a pirate's life for me."

Philip's eyes snapped open.

Sitting up into an alert position from his former (reclining against the wall, seated on an unopened barrel of Lord knows what) he swiftly scanned the deck, hoping it wasn't what he thought it was.

It was.

Standing at the bow of the ship, a twelve year old girl sung a sea shanty that a missionary's wife had taught her.

"Elizabeth," Philip gritted his teeth. If her father heard her singing that song again they'd both be in big trouble.

Darting from his seat, Philip ran straight for his cousin, praying he'd get there before someone else did.

But he didn't.

By the time he reached her, some crewmember had grabbed Elizabeth by the shoulder, frightening her, and begun to scold the young girl.

"Cursed pirates sail these waters," the man warned as Philip reached them. "You want to call 'em down on us?"

Elizabeth's fearful eyes found her cousin's gaze; she was terrified of the strange man. Philip opened his mouth to say something, he wasn't sure exactly what, praying God gave him the words, when a not unfamiliar voice called out.

"Mr. Gibbs, that will do."

The trio turned to see Lieutenant James Norrington standing confidently with the soon to be Governor at his side. Philip frowned, although he didn't dislike the Lieutenant, he had begun to uncomfortably notice that Norrington took one too many glances at Elizabeth. Though it was nothing inappropriate, the potential that they could become something more was a little too evident for the liking of the missionary's son.

"She was singing about pirates," the man apparently named Gibbs objected. "Bad luck to sing about pirates with us mired in this unnatural fog. Mark my words."

"Consider them marked." Had it not been improper, Philip had no doubt Norrington would have rolled his eyes. "On your way."

"Aye, Lieutenant." Gibbs didn't even take a look back at Elizabeth as he walked away, but they all heard him mutter, "Bad luck to have a woman on board, too. Even a miniature one."

Elizabeth faced Norrington, "I think it would be rather exciting to meet a pirate."

Philip sighed, Elizabeth never could keep her opinions about pirates to herself, godless men that they were. But like most, Elizabeth's longing for adventure pushed all thoughts of God to the back of his young cousin's mind. Not him. If Philip was going to spread the word like his parents, he always had to keep God foremost in his mind.

"Think again, Miss Swann," Norrington stepped past the group, hoping to dissuade the young girl's obsession. "Vile and dissolute creatures, the lot of them. I intend to see to it that any man who sails under a pirate flag or wears a pirate brand gets what he deserves. A short drop and a sudden stop."

Despite Norrington's reassuring smile, Philip couldn't help but notice his uncle's disapproving look. Clearly the Lieutenant was relying on Elizabeth not understanding the phrase to make it not seem improper. But following her eyes, Philip caught Gibbs' not too subtle hint of clarification, and the following gasp emitted from the girl's shock.

His uncle must have caught it too because in a second he was at Norrington's side.

"Lieutenant Norrington, I appreciate your fervor, but I am concerned about the effect this subject will have on my children," Weatherby glanced at Philip and Elizabeth. The cousins shared a look, and Philip had to turn away to hide his smile.

"My apologies, Governor," Norrington withdrew.

"Actually, I find it all fascinating," Elizabeth interjected.

"Yes, that's what concerns me," Weatherby bitterly smiled. "Now you stay here and no more pirate songs, do you understand?"

"Yes, Father," Elizabeth promised.

"Philip, would you mind joining me for a second, please?" Weatherby asked.

"Yes, Sir," Philip nodded and scampered to his uncle's side. "What is it, Uncle?"

"Philip," Weatherby said wordlessly instructing the boy to walk with him away from the others. He was happy when Philip got the message and followed dutifully at his side. "We will be landing in Port Royal in a few weeks, and beginning our new lives. You understand that, right? That we will be starting new lives?"

"Of course," Philip frowned, gripping the aged bible. Why was his uncle bringing this up?

Weatherby paused to consider his next move, "Philip... I know that you want to be a missionary like your father, but are you sure that's how you want to spend your life?"

Philip started; he hadn't been expecting that question, "Of course I do! It's what my father did, it's what my mother did, and it's what I'll do."

"Doing something because your parents did it, shouldn't be the only factor in deciding your future. If you want to go on adventures, I'd be more than happy if you joined the navy."

"I'm not doing this because my parents did it! I'm doing this because I want to do this. It's what I'm meant to do."

"Alright, Philip," Weatherby sighed, placing a hand on his nephew's shoulder. "But if you ever change your mind-"

"Look! A boy! There's a boy in the water!"

Weatherby and Philip were jolted out of their conversation as all went rushing past them to see if what Elizabeth was shouting was true. Joining the crowd, Weatherby and Philip were respectfully allowed to the rail to get a clear view next to Norrington.

Sure enough, floating on a piece of wreckage, there was a young boy no older than Elizabeth.

"Man overboard! Man the ropes! Fetch a hook! Haul him aboard!" Norrington shouted.

Everyone darted into action, jostling Philip all over until someone knocked him into Elizabeth.

"And you said nothing would come of watching the ocean," Elizabeth smirked.

Shaking his head at his cousin, Philip looked over to see someone lifting the boy from the wreck and laying him on the deck.

"Come on!" Philip grabbed her hand. The pair dashed over into the crowd, pushing and squeezing through the men until they reached the front.

"He's still breathing," Norrington announced, looking up at the future Governor.

Weatherby cast an uneasy glance at the children, worried about the effect it might have on them. Philip didn't notice, he was too busy frowning at the boy. Something didn't make sense.

Philip looked up at his uncle, "Where did he come from?"

"Mary, Mother of God."

Everyone turned to look at the source of the voice. It was that more pirate than Navy sailor, Gibbs. He stared out at the sea in front of them, frozen stiff at the sight. There was a mad dash for the rail, in which Philip once again was jostled around. When they reached the rail, they too were all horrified at what they saw.

Wreckage from a ship was scattered across the ocean, what was left of the hull burned in a fiery inferno, bodies littered the water. This truly was an act of Godlessness.

"What happened here?" Weatherby asked, though he was afraid that he already knew the answer.

"Most likely the powder magazine," Norrington replied. "Merchant vessels run heavily armed."

"Lot of good it did them," Gibbs muttered. Philip - who had somehow ended up next to the man - gave the aged sailor a curious look. "Everyone's thinking it. I'm just saying it. Pirates."

Philip didn't hear what his uncle said in reply because he was distracted by Elizabeth wandering up to the boy… alone. His heart pounded with panic and fear as he thought of what a stranger might do to his cousin. Losing his pseudo-mother, father, and actual mother in the span of three years had made Philip paranoid, and he refused to let anything happen to his best friend and cousin.

Instantly he ran up to Elizabeth and grabbed her shoulder, "Elizabeth!"

She gasped and turned around, not unlike she had done with Gibbs. They paused for a beat, and then the tension broke. They were both safe. Philip gave her a reassuring smile, and they turned to look at the unconscious boy, his hands resting on the tops of her shoulders.

"Children!" They faced Weatherby, and as their backs turned, someone lifted the boy and began to carry him away. "Children, I want you to accompany the boy. He'll be in your charge. Take care of him."

Elizabeth nodded gravely and the pair began forward, but Philip, uncertain of his uncle, stopped and looked at Weatherby. His uncle had an unreadable expression, but it was by no means a happy one.

Weatherby turned and returned to helping the men, but Philip stood motionless for a minute. He was very confused by the turn of events; surely God couldn't let something as horrific as this happen without a reason.

Philip sighed; it wasn't his place to guess God's plans. He turned back to his cousin and once again froze in shock. He really didn't know how much more of this he could take. The boy was now awake, grasping Elizabeth's wrist. She said something to him and the boy replied, leaving Elizabeth to say something more. Just as Philip started toward the boy and his cousin, the boy passed out once more.

Suddenly, his cousin frowned and pulled something from the boy's neck. Reaching them, Philip saw a flash of gold and heard Elizabeth whisper, but he couldn't make out what.

"Has he said anything?" Norrington surprised Elizabeth.

What was it? National Sneak Up On Elizabeth Day?

Philip once more saw a flash of gold as Elizabeth hid something behind her back. She was very rigid and frightened; clearly whatever she had taken from the boy was something she couldn't reveal.

"His name is William Turner," Elizabeth replied. "That's all I found out."

Philip frowned at her disapprovingly, and she fearfully caught his look. Silently pleading with him, Philip sighed and gave a small nod: he would hide her secret.

"Take him below," Norrington ordered. And with that, the boy was carried off.

Philip watched as they took him down. What could this William Turner have had that would make Elizabeth of all people so afraid? Turning back, once Philip realised he would not be allowed to follow the boy, he realised he had also lost sight of Elizabeth. Torn between finding Elizabeth and watching the men search the wreck, Philip weighed his options. There was no way Elizabeth was going to tell him anything of what she was hiding, and it might be helpful to have another set of eyes on the sea.

Eventually he decided to return to the rail and watch the wreck. After all, curiosity wasn't a sin, was it?

"Probably," a small voice inside him said.

Philip looked over the side; he was surprised to find that the piece of wreckage William had been on was still floating next to the ship, almost as if someone was holding it in place.

He frowned and squinted, maybe he could see what it was. After all, it probably wasn't good for a ship to have wreckage caught on it.

Then he saw them, two hazel eyes staring up at him.

It looked to be a girl, no younger than Elizabeth, with pale skin, large eyes, full lips, and either black hair, or dark brown that looked black when wet. She was rather beautiful for a young girl, Philip couldn't help but notice.

Her eyes widened in shock when they caught his own green ones, but before he could do anything she turned and splashed back into the water, away from him.

He was about to call out his discovery, when he saw something that made him feel as if he had swallowed a cube of ice.

The girl had a tail.