honorat: (Groves by Honorat)
[personal profile] honorat
Author: Honorat
Rating: R
Characters: : Norrington, the crew of the Dauntless, Jack Sparrow, and the crew of the Black Pearl
Pairing: Jack/Anamaria somewhat; Jack/Pearl definitely
Warnings: Disturbing Naval discipline, death, and discussions of slavery
Disclaimer: The characters of PotC! She’s taken them! Get after her, you feckless pack of ingrates!

Summary: On board the Dauntless, Groves tells Sparrow stories and Jip takes his punishment. On board the Black Pearl, a funeral takes place. Every once in awhile, I have to write some raving sailing. Norrington has finally got the Black Pearl trapped. Jack is bound to do something crazy, but will it be the last thing he does? Today’s title is taken from William Shakespeare’s Richard II.

Thank you so very much [livejournal.com profile] geekmama for the beta help


1 Ambush
2 No Regrets
3 The Judgment of the Sea
4 The Sea Pays Homage
5 Risking All That Is Mortal and Unsure
6 Troubles Come Not Single Spies
7 To Dare Do All That May Become a Man
8 Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
9 A Special Providence in the Fall
10 For Where We Are Is Hell
11 To Beat the Surges Under and Ride Upon Their Backs
12 One Equal Temper of Heroic Hearts
13 Though the Seas Threaten, They are Merciful
14 He Jests at Scars Who Never Felt a Wound
15 To Strive, To Seek, To Find, And Not To Yield
16 A Kind of Alacrity in Sinking
17 A Fine-Baited Delay
18 To Watch the Night in Storms
19a The Natural Shocks That Flesh is Heir To, Part 1
19b The Natural Shocks That Flesh is Heir To, Part 2
20 To Disguise Fair Nature with Hard-Favour'd Rage
21 Valour's Show and Valour's Worth
22 Between the Fell Incensed Points of Mighty Opposites
23 Mark'd for Hot Vengeance
24 Strength by Limping Sway Disabled
25 She That You Wrong'd, Look You Restore


* * * * *

26 With Rainy Eyes Write Sorrow on the Bosom of the Earth

* * * * *

As soon as he was off duty that evening, Lieutenant Theodore Groves made his way down to the brig to check on Jip. In the dim light of the single lantern, he saw the marine, Mullroy, perched on a barrel outside the cell, cleaning his rifle. Under the guise of watching over a potential escapee, Mullroy was keeping Jip company; the commodore had made sure his prisoner would not be left alone to await his punishment.

The small pirate huddled, a tangle of thin arms and legs, in the corner of the cell, eyes wide and gone black, staring straight ahead.

“He’s been like that since we put him in there,” Mullroy shrugged. “Hasn’t said a word.” The marine squinted critically at his charge. “’Tain’t natural is what I say. That little devil never shuts up.”

The lieutenant approached the bars of the brig. “May I come in?” he asked. Receiving no response, he said, “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” and let himself into the cell.

Mullroy locked the grated door behind him.

Not sure at what point the boy would construe his approach a menace, Groves did not move any closer. Settling himself on his heels and draping his arms unthreateningly over his knees, he contemplated his cellmate.

“Shall I tell you a story?” he offered, not expecting an answer—which was just as well because he didn’t get one. “Good,” he continued brightly. “This is one of my favourites. I call it ‘The Day the Royal Navy Will Always Remember as the Day They Almost Hanged Captain Jack Sparrow.’”

At the mention of the pirate captain’s name, something indefinable changed in the demeanor of the prisoner. Groves could tell he had an audience now, even though the boy was still not looking at him.

“You see, we’d just returned to Port Royal after rescuing the daughter of the governor of Jamaica and the local blacksmith from the pirate crew that had mutinied on Captain Sparrow. Since Sparrow’s ship was gone, he’d had no choice but to accept the Dauntless’ offer of hospitality, in this very brig in fact, and resign himself to an assignation with the hangman. The governor’s daughter was . . . not pleased . . . with Commodore Norrington.” Groves shook his head reminiscently. “Your captain had saved her life several times, you see.”

His small auditor was relaxing now, Groves noted with satisfaction. “The governor’s daughter is a force to be reckoned with, but the commodore stuck to his guns. Jack Sparrow was a convicted pirate, and the law said he must be hanged, so hanged he would be. The good commodore can be a bit of an immoveable object when he feels the situation demands it,” he confided to Jip, feeling that the present situation exemplified his point exactly.

“You never saw such a hanging,” the lieutenant continued. “The entire town showed up to see the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow dance the hempen jig. Even the governor’s daughter was there—and the blacksmith, which in retrospect was an oversight on the commodore’s part.

“I’ve seen men go to the gallows weeping and begging, crying and praying, cursing and fighting. But Jack Sparrow stood there, asking no quarter, blaming no one, as though being hanged was merely another hazardous adventure. He even laughed when they read his charges. Did you know he once impersonated a cleric of the Church of England?”

Jip’s eyes were tracking him now, and a half smile accompanied a small shake of his head.

“That is a great pity. I’ve always wanted to hear that story.” Groves exaggerated looking mournful, and the smile spread a little. Apparently the lieutenant was on the right heading. Cautiously he moved to sit down beside the boy. “He is a brave man, your captain.”

“When he doesn’t have any other options, he says,” Jip offered. “He says courage is for fools who’ve been stupid enough to need it.”

Groves snorted. “He may have a point. Certainly, he needed it that day.”

“But they didn’t hang him,” Jip pointed out. “After all, he’s still on the Pearl.”

“Oh, they hanged him all right.” Groves shook his head, remembering. “The noose was around his neck. The lever was pulled. The trap dropped. By all rights, he should have been dead at that point.” He paused.

“Then what happened?” Jip asked eagerly.

“Well now,” the lieutenant said, smiling at the boy, “you remember that blacksmith I’d mentioned was prowling about on the loose?”

Jip nodded.

“Will Turner’s his name. And Mr. Turner is more than a bit of a dab hand with the small sword—both the making and the wielding of it. When the trap dropped, that young man saw his opportunity to pay back his debt. Drawing his sword, he hurled it into the wooden frame of the gallows below the trap where it stuck like an arrow in a target, and your captain managed to land with both feet on that wavering strip of steel.”

“Criminy!” Jip exclaimed, beginning to bounce. “I’d like to learn that trick!”

“Knowing Mr. Turner,” Groves reflected, “I’m sure he’d teach you.” He wondered if Commodore Norrington might be persuaded to remit their little prisoner into Turner’s custody the next time they made Port Royal. Certainly the blacksmith had a soft spot for Jack Sparrow and would treat his protégé with kindness. He’d have to mention it to the commodore.

“Go on!” Jip prompted. “What happened next?”

Obediently, the lieutenant continued, “While Sparrow was dancing on that sword trying not to complete his own hanging, the blacksmith leapt up on the platform, drove the hangman off into the arms of the marines rushing to stop him, and cut your captain free. Then Turner vaulted off the platform, came up running, and was joined by Sparrow, who’d made it down off that sword without slicing anything more than the bonds off his wrists.” Groves grinned down at his impatient auditor. “The two of them dashed for the battlements, knocking down marines with the rope from the noose stretched between them. Of course, that couldn’t last. Eventually we had them surrounded. Mr. Turner had naturally availed himself of a nearby sword, but even he was no match for a dozen bayonets. So, once again, your captain was back in the hands of the law.”

“But he escaped again!” Jip crowed happily. “How did he escape?”

“By misdirection, lad,” Groves said wryly. “The commodore was distracted by Mr. Turner who was refusing to let him take Sparrow without a fight, and then the governor’s daughter joined in the general confusion by siding with the blacksmith. Meanwhile Sparrow was rambling about, babbling his last words to everyone from the commodore to the governor. Since he didn’t seem to be trying to escape, no one paid any attention to how close he was getting to the edge of the parapet until he backed up onto it. Waving his arms like an orator, your captain proclaimed, ‘This is the day you will always remember as the day that—’ and then he simply fell over backwards.” Groves shook his head. “Any other man would have cracked himself like an egg on the rocks at the base of that cliff, but Jack Sparrow has the devil’s own luck. He hit the water, did not drown, and was picked up by the Black Pearl who just happened to be waiting in the shadows of the headland.”

Jip’s fiendish glee at this ending to the story made Groves smile; he was pleased to see some of the lad’s colour and sparkle restored.

Deliberately, the lieutenant brought the conversation around to the real purpose of his visit. “And now, I think perhaps you have been foolish enough to have need of your courage, have you not, Jip?”

At this reminder, the child wilted a little. “But I’m not sorry!” he insisted stoutly.

“Of course you are not,” Groves agreed. “You were trying to protect your home and the people you love.” He made sure Jip was looking him in the eyes before he continued. “That is what Commodore Norrington and the Dauntless are trying to do, too. We have homes and people to protect as well. Do you understand?”

Jip nodded soberly. “I understand.”

“It is too bad that means we end up hurting each other, isn’t it?” Groves said quietly.

“Yes.” Jip’s voice was subdued.

“I want you to know that I am sorry,” Lieutenant Groves said. “I know that is of very little use to you. I cannot give you back anything that you have lost, nor can I turn aside the consequences of your actions. But I truly wish I could.”

Jip searched Groves’ face, judging the lieutenant’s sincerity. Finally, he ducked his chin in a brief nod, accepting the apology.

“What I can do is give you some advice for tomorrow. I am not recommending that you practice Jack Sparrow’s stoicism,” Groves said emphatically. “Bo’sun likes to know when he’s doing his job, so you yell when it hurts. That’s what I always did when I was a lad.” He winked at the astonished Jip. “Oh yes, I got my share of the boys’ cat in my misspent youth. I soon discovered that if I suffered in silence, it only inspired the bo’sun to greater exertion.”

The small pirate was staring at him wide-eyed. “Do you have lots of scars?” Jip asked.

“Of course not,” Groves assured him. “I mended my wicked ways long before I was old enough for a man’s flogging.”

“I have,” said Jip under his breath, looking down. “Lots of scars, I mean.”

“I had heard,” the lieutenant said softly, putting a hand on Jip’s thin shoulder. “Do you want to tell me that story?”

The boy was quiet for a moment. When he spoke, Groves had to lean close to catch the words. “It was for the wind,” Jip explained. “When we hadn’t any wind for days and days, they’d tie me to the mast . . .” his voice trailed off.

Groves drew a breath in shocked comprehension. He’d heard rumours of that superstition. Not on English ships. But some shipmasters believed that if a ship was trapped in the doldrums, binding the cabin boy to the mast and flogging him until he bled would call the wind to his back. No wonder the lad was terrified of punishment.

“I was really glad,” Jip continued fervently, “when Captain Sparrow took me off that ship. Nobody gets flogged for anything on the Black Pearl. When I get in trouble, I have to clean up after Cat o’Nine.”

Confused, Groves interrupted, “But I thought you said . . .”

“Our cat,” Jip explained. “Her name is Cat o’Nine Tails. I suppose she’s drowned now,” he finished morosely. “And I’m here, and there’s flogging again.”

“Only the boys’ cat,” Groves hastened to reassure him. “The commodore would never order a child like you flogged with the cat o’nine.”

Jip brightened a little at this news.

“Now I’m going to have to return to my duties,” the lieutenant told Jip, getting to his feet and dusting off his uniform. “But I wanted to see how you were doing down here and bring you something to eat.” He pulled a handkerchief-wrapped packet from his coat pocket. “It’s from the commodore’s own table,” he informed the youngster. “Don’t tell him I lifted it.”

He and Jip shared a conspiratorial gleam as the boy took the packet.

As Mullroy let Groves back out of the cell, Jip spoke up unexpectedly. “Will you be there?”

The lieutenant looked back at him and nodded. “Yes, Jip, I’ll be there—to see another brave man take his punishment.”

He held out his hand through the bars, and a small paw disappeared into it.

“We have an accord,” Jip said. They shook hands gravely.

Withdrawing his hand, Lieutenant Groves made a show of inspecting it for fleas, overplaying his relief at finding himself vermin-free.

As he climbed up the stairs, he could still hear a small giggling pirate back in the gloomy cell.

* * * * *

Long before the young sun drew the glow of a new day over the unquiet slumber of the sea, Captain Walton found himself rudely awakened by his pirate escort, this time the grizzled quartermaster, Gibbs. Apparently his few hours of respite while Captain Sparrow slept were over. Walton could have sworn when the pirate captain had collapsed while trying to assist his unconscious first mate that the man would not be back on his feet for days, and yet here he was, striding the decks of his Black Pearl, a shadowy figure around which all other moving shadows revolved in the grey predawn.

As Walton creaked stiffly and painfully to his feet, resigned to yet another day of stumbling in the wake of the inhumanly energetic Sparrow, he realized that the activity occupying the pirates so early in the morning was that of preparing their shipmates for burial. With their ship no longer in imminent danger of sinking out from under them, they had turned to this other necessary and too-long-delayed task.

The work of restoring the Black Pearl was being accomplished amidst a cacophony of noise—the clamour of men cursing and shouting and singing, the clashing and creaking and hammering and chopping of wood and rope and metal. But now an inviolable hush muted the tumult, as though the decks of the ship, anointed by the blood of her dead, were touched with eternity.

For some time the Naval captain observed as more bodies were carried onto the deck. In the end, he counted twenty-six still forms.

Captain Jack Sparrow moved among his fallen crewmen as a man might draw a knife through his flesh, noting each recognizable face, kneeling to search with his own hands for identifying marks on those no longer recognizable. After each identification, he recorded the name of the dead man in the log the midget pirate was carrying for him. At this point, Captain Walton was no longer surprised at the pirate captain’s ability to write a flourishing but legible hand.

Walton’s escort Gibbs, along with propelling him after Sparrow, appeared to have been assigned to tell him stories about each of the men who had died in their engagement with the Royal Navy. Walton learned that a man with the unlikely name of Beeblock had a botanical hobby complete with carefully pressed specimens from all the Pearl’s ports of call. That a crumpled heap of tattooed limbs and viscera had been Allen Cowper who was supporting an infant son and two small daughters with his share as a pirate. That a man named Garcilaso was the great great grandson of the illegitimate son of Garcilaso de la Vega and wrote beautiful poetry like his poet-soldier ancestor, or so Gibbs said Jack had told him, since Gibbs himself didn’t speak a word of the Spanish lingo and couldn’t say. That another of the dead, Earless Mo, also wrote poetry, but very bad poetry.

“Not that bad,” Sparrow said, overhearing.

“Oh aye, that bad,” insisted Gibbs.

The midget pirate agreed. “The boys paid him extra shares not to read his poems aloud when he was drunk.”

There was a pirate who had done beautiful needlework—altar cloths and table linens. And there was one who had been able to play two horns at the same time. The simple stories revealed the truth that at sea there is only the little band of men, and when one goes, no one comes to take his place.

At the body of a powerful black man, Captain Sparrow bent down and with a gentle hand brushed a wildly knotted strand of hair from the twisted face. The gesture was incredibly tender. “At last you are at peace, my friend,” he said softly. Straightening with difficulty, Sparrow turned to the captive Naval officer. “You may congratulate yourself, Walton, on putting a period to the existence of such a desperate criminal. Nadiondi has been fleeing English justice for ten years now.”

“And what were his crimes?” Walton asked.

“Murder,” said Sparrow shortly. “And running away.”

Walton had noticed the old brand of a slave on the dead man’s face.

“Yes,” the pirate captain continued. “It is after all, perfectly acceptable for an overseer to beat a young woman until the child she carries is dead. When it is born, the marks of the beating on its body are not sufficient evidence against him of murder. When the woman hangs herself in despair and grief, it is not murder. But when her husband kills the man who is responsible for the deaths of his child and his wife, he is certainly a murderer and a rebellious slave and must die.”

“That is a terrible story,” Walton said, shocked.

“It is a terrible thing to do to a human being,” Sparrow corrected him. “Thus, the man escaped to become a pirate, because here no man is a slave, nor do we bow to the kings or countries that enslave others, and we only steal men’s possessions and not their bodies and souls. But piracy also merits him death.”

Having delivered this statement, Jack Sparrow pivoted away and ignored his captive for which mercy Walton was grateful because he did not know what answer he could have made.

Pausing at the body of a dark-skinned man with a heavily bearded face, Sparrow halted the pirate sewing him into his canvas shroud. “Wait,” he ordered. Turning to his quartermaster he asked, “Mister Gibbs, where is Asfar? His brother is dead and must be given ghusl, hunnut and kafan according to the customs of his people before the namaz-e-mayyit can be offered.”

Having sent the crewman whose task he’d interrupted in search of the dead man’s brother, Sparrow seized on another crewman with orders to bring the ship’s astrolabe and octant, because Asfar would be wanting to locate qibla before the burial.

Noticing Walton’s blank incomprehension, Gibbs explained that Asfar was a follower of the prophet Muhammad and would need to ritually bathe, anoint and clothe his brother before he was given to the sea, and that he would need to face the Muslim holy place in Mecca when he offered the prayer for his brother’s soul. To Walton’s look of astonishment, Gibbs shrugged. “Those boys are the best navigators we’ve got, so what does it matter how many times a day they have to pray?”

Captain Walton was beginning to realize how much more complicated life aboard a ship could be when no effort was made to turn every crew member into a single being.

The next body was a bald-headed man who had obviously not survived a double amputation. Walton noted that Jack Sparrow seemed particularly hard hit by this man’s death. The pirate captain went down on one knee and gripped the lifeless hand. “Matelot, Matelot,” he whispered. “Old friend, did you have to break down this door too?”

But there was little time for grief, and so Sparrow settled the hand of his friend back on his chest. When Gibbs had helped him to his feet, the pirate captain’s dark eyes glittered bright with unshed tears.

“Matelot—he would not have wanted to live without his legs,” the short pirate offered, wiping his traitorous nose on his shirtsleeve.

“And at least Jip will have someone to look out for him on the other side,” the quartermaster said, his gruff voice even rougher.

Captain Sparrow passed his hands down over his face as though to erase all emotion and nodded. Bracing his shoulders and taking a deep breath that cut short on a wince, he moved on.

The next name recorded in the log belonged to a pirate little more than a boy really. One of the marine sharpshooters had achieved his mark.

Sparrow’s shadowy, troubled eyes met Walton’s. “It’s always the hardest when it’s the children, isn’t it?” he said.

Walton, who had stood many times before his own mutely accusing, canvas-clad bundles whether because of disease or mishap or battle, knew exactly what the pirate meant. This fellow feeling with his enemy was a strange and uneasy experience for the Naval captain. He imagined Jack Sparrow intended for it to be so.

Over and over again, their small party paused by the bodies of the dead and Sparrow made his record while Gibbs and sometimes the midget pirate, whose name Walton learned was Marty, told the stories. As Walton looked back over the long row of still forms nearly completely enshrouded now, he realized he could put incidents or bits of personal information and often names with most of them.

The twenty-sixth pirate entered in the log was a tall, fair man, who looked as though he might merely be asleep. His shipmate, who had begun the process of sewing his corpse into the canvas that had been his home at sea and would now be his grave clothes, was examining something that glinted gold in his fingers.

Sparrow held out his hand, “May I see?”

The youth raised a tear-stained face to him questioningly then with some reluctance tipped the bit of treasure into his captain’s palm.

Sparrow examined the small ornament, dexterous fingers finding the latch and carefully opening it. Walton was close enough to see that the locket contained a miniature of a fair young woman and a curl of pale hair.

“Who was she?” Sparrow asked the lad.

“His wife,” the boy replied, his voice thickly accented. “When she died, Bjorn came to the sea.”

To Walton’s surprise, the pirate captain returned the valuable golden trinket to his crewman.

“See that it’s buried with him.”

The young pirate carefully re-clasped the locket around his mate’s neck. Then he resumed the heartbreaking task of threading the heavy sailmaker’s needle through the stiff canvas.

Sparrow turned as if to continue then realized he was finished.

“God willing, that’s the last of them,” said Gibbs.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Marty agreed, stoppering the bottle of ink.

Gazing upon the still bundles receiving their last stitches, Captain Sparrow pressed his hands together, fingertips and palms touching, and bowed. Only his lips moved over the words intended for no living ears, “Thank you.”

A commotion at the aft hatch drew their attention away from the sorrowful work on deck.

“Captain, Captain! Look who I found!” A lad Walton’s mind kept trying to see as a midshipman, even though he knew pirates did not have naval ranks, came struggling out onto deck.

He ran in a peculiar, folded over, twisted manner, cradling something to his chest. When he reached his captain, he held out his scratched and bleeding hands which were filled with a writhing, spitting, clawing bundle of raggedy black fur.

“Cat O’ Nine Tails!” he exclaimed. “I found her in the galley! She didn’t drown!”

Cat O’ Nine Tales, Walton realized, was not an instrument of punishment but a most unprepossessing specimen of felinity—a scruffy, one-eared, cross-eyed cat, with a tail that proceeded in several unlikely directions. She did not appear to be an even-tempered creature.

Nevertheless, one of Sparrow’s incandescent smiles broke through the clouds as he carefully detached the irate animal from his crewman’s grasp.

The cat glared balefully at him, growling and hissing and not in a mood to be placated.

When he folded her in his arms and buried his face in her tatterdemalion coat, she set all her claws and teeth into whatever parts of his hide she could reach. Then in a massive flurry of kicks and squirms, the cat succeeded in escaping Sparrow’s grip.

“Avast! Ye scurvy varmint!” shouted the parrot sitting on the mute pirate’s shoulder.

The cat did not “Avast.” She hit the deck at a sprint and was up the mizzenmast in an eye blink. Perching on the crosstrees, she kept up a grumbling complaint about a crew and a captain who could not be counted on to keep a ship right side up with the sea out of its hull and a good supply of rats in its hold.

Captain Sparrow had not wept amongst his dead, but now the glow of morning on the horizon revealed the traces of tears on his cheeks.

Walton understood. In the midst of all this death, something had come back to life.

* * * * *

Ordinarily dawn was a pleasant time aboard the Dauntless; however, on occasions such as these, Commodore Norrington could have wished for the night to continue.

He had chosen to administer Jip’s punishment in his cabin away from the curious and prying eyes of the men on deck. There was no need to use this discipline as a deterrent for the other lads. The only witnesses would be himself, the doctor, as was customary, the boatswain, and by his own request, Lieutenant Groves.

Murtogg and Mullroy arrived with Jip collared between them. The little culprit seemed to have recovered some of his spirit since he had first been sentenced. Nevertheless, he hung back at the door and had to be pushed into the room.

After the marines had departed, closing the door behind them, Jip stood with his back to the wood and refused to take a step further. When the boatswain made as if he would seize the boy to bind him for his punishment, Jip stared up wide-eyed at the burly man and shrank back even though he had nowhere to go.

Then to Norrington’s surprise, his second lieutenant motioned the man aside. Looking at the commodore, Groves said, “I’ll do it, if you don’t mind, sir.”

Norrington nodded and waved his permission.

Groves approached Jip and held out his hand. “Come, you pestilential brat. Are you ready to get this over with?”

Norrington saw some of the steel return to the boy’s spine. Whether it was the friendly face or the bracing tone, Jip responded to the young lieutenant, straightening up and taking the proffered hand. The two of them approached the gun intended for Jip’s summary flogging.

“Here’s a hammock all folded up to pad your stomach,” Groves said, patting the item. Taking the boy’s crutch, he assisted Jip with a determinedly cheerful, “Now up you go.”

Once again, Norrington was struck with how tiny their captive pirate was. Bent over the breech of the smallest gun, he barely brushed the deck with the toes on his remaining leg.

“I’m going to have to tie your wrists together under the barrel,” Groves explained, flashing Jip a warm smile. “You’re so good at escaping, you see.”

Jip took a deep breath, returned the smile, and then cooperated with his own binding.

“Now,” Groves informed Jip, “I’ll have to raise your shirt.”

Gently the lieutenant did as he’d described, but as he did so, his hands froze.

Only the doctor was prepared for the spectacle of Jip’s back. Dark, angry ropes of scars that seemed far too heavy to be borne on those thin shoulders crisscrossed the small pirate’s tanned skin. Even Norrington, who had known theoretically that they were there, caught his breath in shocked comprehension. Unsurprising that the boy had panicked at the sentence. What sort of monster would do such a thing to a child? Almost, he wished there were a way he could turn a blind eye to Jip’s depredations.

“Commodore,” Groves turned, his expression a mixture of horror and self-loathing, “surely we cannot . . .”

Norrington shook his head fractionally. “Carry on, Lieutenant.” He kept his voice firm.

Jip clenched his eyes shut as though he were fighting off memories.

Reluctantly, Lieutenant Groves obeyed his orders, finishing with the boy’s shirt and pulling down his breeches, but he continued a low murmured conversation with Jip. “I promise, it’s just the boy’s cat, Jip. Five smooth strands. No knots. It’ll be over in six minutes.”

Jip looked up at the lieutenant from where his face lay along the barrel of the gun. “This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost beat Jip of the Black Pearl,” he said with an odd light in his eyes.

Norrington would have cause to remember those words.

Groves squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “Brave man,” he approved. “Now here’s a piece of hide for you to bite on so that you don’t curse Bo’sun into a bad temper.”

Jip actually managed a small snort before his mouth was stopped.

Then the lieutenant stepped back and nodded to the commodore.

“You may proceed.” Norrington gave the boatswain the word.

As the first crack of the lash sounded across Jip’s flesh, the small pirate let out a yelp that could have taken the bark off a tree. Gilbert Samuels flinched as though he had been struck himself and looked away, but for some unaccountable reason, Theodore Groves had a grim smile twisting his lips.

While the flogging dragged on, with the pause after each stroke so that its full effect could be felt by the victim, Jip’s cries increased in volume until they were painful to the ears. Norrington, who had heard the child scarcely make a sound while his leg was being amputated, was stunned.

After the twelfth stroke, Groves took the teary-eyed Jip the customary draught of water. When he had finished gulping it down, Jip gritted his teeth. “All right,” he said in a nearly normal voice. “Get on with it.”

The second dozen lashes proceeded as the first had done, with Jip howling in apparent agony. Norrington thought the doctor was going to be ill. In fact, he was not sure who was going to be more relieved when the punishment was over.

When at last the sound of the lash ceased, and Jip fell silent, the doctor and the lieutenant moved instantly to his side.

After a flogging, it was Samuels’ duty to examine the victim and treat any lacerations with mercuric oxide salve; however, this time he did not discover any to treat. The boatswain, who was entirely capable of breaking skin even with the boy’s cat, had not approached that severity with Jip.

“Well lad, it’s over.” Groves bent down and released the bonds from Jip’s wrists. “Steady as she goes.” He helped ease the boy off the gun and handed him his crutch.

As carefully as possible, the lieutenant and the doctor helped Jip restore his clothing. Although the boy’s breath hissed as his breeches were drawn over his sore posterior, he made no complaint.

The commodore noticed Jip look up at Lieutenant Groves questioningly. The young officer nodded at the lad, as though they were communicating without words. Then Groves slowly and quietly clapped his hands in applause. The small pirate grinned at him.

Yes, reflected Norrington, that had been a performance worthy of Drury Lane. Even the boatswain, whose heart was made of boiled leather, and whose arm was made of iron, according to the ship’s boys, had not been immune to it. He had no doubt that Bo’sun had never administered such a light flogging in all his days of wielding the cat.

Lieutenant Groves accompanied the gingerly moving Jip to the cabin door where Murtogg and Mullroy were waiting outside to return the little pirate to his cell. As the door closed behind him, Norrington heard Jip’s voice raised consigning the Navy, corporately and individually, to every level of Dante’s hell and their ships from the first rate men o’war to the jolly boats to Davy Jones’ Locker

Theodore Groves dropped into a chair, covered his face with his hands and shook his head. “Jip!” he groaned. “I don’t know whether to laugh or to weep!”

Samuels, who was already slumped in his own chair, was still looking a mite peaked, so the commodore summoned his steward to bring the brandy and glasses. The doctor tossed his down with a complete lack of reverence for good spirits and held out his glass for more.

“Well,” he said bitterly. “That was a singularly distasteful bit of business.”

“Indeed.” Norrington stared at the untasted liquid in his glass. “I wish it had not been necessary.”

Samuels frowned disbelieving but did not seem prepared to reopen old arguments.

“Perhaps he has learnt his lesson,” the commodore spoke without much hope. This was, after all, Sparrow’s protégé.

“I’m very much afraid he has, James. I think he’s learned he can survive a flogging. He’ll factor it into the cost of anything else he does, but for the right price, I’ll wager he’d be willing to go through it again.” The doctor scowled into his glass. “He’s got more intestinal fortitude than I have. I’m not sure I could go through that again.”

Lieutenant Groves raised his glass to the doctor in silent agreement.

“Then it is a good thing he will remain locked in the brig for the duration of our voyage,” Norrington said. “I am sure he will be happy to occupy Jack Sparrow’s former cell.”

*****

The black flag with its skull and crossed sabers flickered at half mast against the pale sky. However, in preparation for the burial of their dead, the pirates of the Black Pearl had no need to untrim her lines or to set her yards acockbill. The damage their ship had undergone had left her with her yards unshipped and her rigging hopelessly fouled, far deeper emblems of mourning than any mere ritual required

Although the day was dawning fine and clear, a grey mist like a pall of grief seemed to rise over the Black Pearl as if the ship herself wept for her dead. Captain Walton quickly repressed the illogical thought. There was a perfectly rational explanation. He was so exhausted that his dreams were reaching up into the waking world. It was only the emotional climate giving him the sensation that the sun warming the decks of the Defender could not touch the strained, gaunt faces of the pirates gathering in no particular formation by the lee rail of the Pearl for the burial of their fallen shipmates.

At the windward rail of his ship, Captain Sparrow stood, bareheaded, his dead in a long row at his feet. On his left stood the quartermaster, Gibbs, hat in hand, head bowed. On his right, the young woman, Sparrow’s first mate, her crimson gown muted by a dark greatcoat, seemed barely able to hold herself upright on crutches. The giant pirate who stood next to her was most likely there to support her if she failed.

Among these pirates there was, of course, no chaplain to offer the service for the dead, so the duty fell to the captain. With hands uncharacteristically fumbling, Captain Sparrow opened the tattered, water-damaged Bible although he could have selected any number of perfectly sound volumes from those aboard the Defender.

In a voice clear and carrying, he began to read:

“Hear my prayer, O Lord. Hold not thy peace at my tears.
For I am a stranger with thee: and a sojourner.
O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength
before I go hence and be no more seen.
Comfort us again now after the time that thou hast plagued us
and for the years wherein we have suffered adversity.
Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.
He cometh up and is cut down, like a flower;
he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
In the midst of life we are in death.
Of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins art justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts;
shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us,
O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy judge eternal,
suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.”

While it was not the full liturgical service of a Naval burial at sea, neither was it as devoid of ritual as Walton would have suspected. In fact he recognized Sparrow’s chosen texts as belonging to the Church of England’s “Order for the Burial of the Dead.” However, in this strange new context, the words took on meanings he had never noticed in them before. For the first time, Walton thought how these words might have been written for men such as these, outlaws, condemned and outcast, at home nowhere but the sea, and if so, perhaps the mercy might be for such as these, as well.

Exchanging the holy book for his logbook, Captain Sparrow opened the leather cover and smoothed its parchment pages. Into the solemn stillness, he began to read the names enrolled therein, his face like flame transformed to marble.

“Henry “Beeblock” Clay, Allen Cowper, Garcilaso Carillo . . .” all the way to “Bjørn Sørensen.”

Walton discovered that recognizing the names of these pirates he had never met and remembering the little bits of their lives he’d been given brought the faint impression that he knew them. As he stood, an alien on this ship, set apart from the men who really knew and truly grieved these silent dead, some of whom stood stoic and unbowed, others who wept openly and unashamedly, the Naval captain felt an unexpected kinship, a sense of sharing in their loss.

After the twenty-sixth name, Sparrow did not stop reading. There were three more names for which no bodies remained. Walton found himself wondering what had been their stories.

In a voice that had grown progressively thicker and rougher, the pirate captain continued, “Ravi ‘Crimp’ Vilairatanasuwan, Ben Russell.” He had to pause and swallow hard before he could resume reading. “And Jonathan Isaiah ‘Jip’ Pendleton,” he finished, bowing his head.

For a moment the only sounds aboard the Black Pearl were those of wind and ship and water. Then Captain Sparrow raised his head, his gaze taking in his vessel and his men as if he drew strength from them.

In the old familiar words, he spoke the sailor’s prayer of commitment: “We commend to Almighty God these our shipmates, and we commit their bodies to the depths to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body, when the Sea shall give up her dead, and the life of the world to come. The Lord bless them and keep them. The Lord make his face to shine upon them and be gracious unto them. The Lord lift up his countenance upon them, and give them peace.”

Here the ritual diverged from anything to which Walton was accustomed. Captain Sparrow beckoned to an individual crewman, “Asfar, it is time for you to offer the namaz for your brother.”

The pirate named Asfar stepped forward. He was, Walton noted, quite the most beautiful youth, tall and well-muscled, with skin like polished oak and damp black curls shining like a rook’s wing from under his cap. The faintest dark shadow of what would one day be a beard graced his fine jaw. Unlike the other pirates who bore the marks of their last terrible days in grime and blood upon their persons, this young man glowed with cleanliness from his bare feet to the crown of his head. As he and his shipmates lifted the body of his elder brother and carried it to the point on the ship’s rail that faced east-northeast towards their holy place and faraway home, his dark eyes held the bewildered suffering of an impossible loss, and his lashes were wet with tears.

Walton saw the pirate Gibbs lean towards his captain.

“Do you think the lad’ll manage it?” the quartermaster asked quietly.

Captain Sparrow shook his head. “He has seen namaz-e-mayyit offered for his father and his mother and another brother and a sister. Haroun was the last of his family. “

Coming to some sort of decision, the pirate captain demanded, “Gibbs, Tearlach, I need help. Get these boots off. And somebody find me my hat—it is mustahab to cover one’s head during prayer.”

After a mostly undignified struggle and some under-breath cursing, Sparrow was as barefooted as his crewmember. A young pirate ran up with the sought-after tricorn. Settling his hat firmly on his head, the pirate captain said, “The congregation may participate,” and made his way to stand behind Asfar.

Curiously, Walton noted that the young pirate positioned himself not at the head of his brother’s body, but at the side, and that the body was parallel to the ship’s rail rather than perpendicular. Then Asfar and Sparrow raised their hands and began the prayer for the dead, Asfar’s voice strong, but heavy with tears, Sparrow’s quiet, supporting, gaining strength only when his crewman faltered. The language was unlike anything Walton had ever heard, liquid and rhythmic, rising and falling like the sea.

Allahu Akbar. Ash hadu an la ilaha illallah wa anna Muhammadan Rasulullah.
Allahu Akbar. Allahumma salli ala Muhammadin wa aali Muhammad, wa salli alal anbiai wal mursalin.
Allahu Akbar. Allahummaghfir lil mu'minina wal mu'minat.
Allahu Akbar. Allahummaghfir li hazal mayyit.
Allahu Akbar
.”

Following the prayer, as his brother’s body was lowered into the sea, the young pirate broke into wild sobbing. His captain moved swiftly to his side, putting a supporting arm around his shoulders, guiding the stumbling boy to where his mates could enfold him in their embrace.

Removing his hat, Sparrow then gestured to his burial party to begin the task of interring the remainder of the dead.

No ensign covered the canvas-shrouded bodies on the surface of the plank as it was tilted again and again through the shot-away port of the starboard gangway. No country or service claimed these forsaken men. Their home was this ship, their family these rough and violent criminals, thrown together by chance, the refuse of the world. Weighted with cannon balls, they slid into the sea with the smallest of splashes, leaving no trace on the trackless ocean. So swift was the obliteration of a man.

When the deep blue waters had claimed the last of the dead, Jack Sparrow led his crew in the traditional Lord’s Prayer. Walton noticed that Asfar also repeated the ancient words.

However, instead of reciting the Collect, Captain Sparrow moved to the splintered rail that framed the gap through which the bodies of his crew had gone. Looking out over the empty, pitiless sea, he spoke softly, and yet every man on the Black Pearl could hear his words. “They have outsoared the shadow of our night; strife and calumny, hatred and pain can no longer touch them. They are made one with the sea, and we will forever hear their voices in all her music.”

Shafts of sunlight filtered through the thinning haze, brushing the decks of the Pearl and the faces of the pirates with hope, as though beyond the veil of mist those lost souls had found a welcome and a home.

How strange, thought Captain Walton, that he could no longer conjure up the image of eternal flames.

*****

With their small curse of a pirate safely in the brig, life aboard the Dauntless returned to its former monotonous calm. However, Jip’s absence was not an unmixed blessing. His carpenter and carpenter’s mate excepted, the remainder of Commodore Norrington’s crew found their existence curiously flat without the regular excitement of a pirate hunt to enliven their days.

Holding to what he was rapidly coming to believe was his persistent folly, Norrington continued to search the empty seas for a sign of either the Black Pearl or the Defender to no avail.

They spent the better part of a day becalmed, a situation, so Murtogg and Mullroy informed him, that sent their captive pirate into a huddled ball again. Apparently he was not yet convinced that the Royal Navy would not see him as a source of longed-for wind. But with nightfall, a breeze picked up briskly, and they were able to continue on their aimless way.

However, when the dawn light poured her gold over the topgallants, a shout rang out from the foretop. Two ships had been sighted. By the time the light was warming the decks, the identification was assured. In all that vast and empty sea, Norrington had achieved the impossible. The ships were the Defender and the Black Pearl. Both appeared to be brought to and in a state of disrepair, and Norrington very much feared Walton had fared badly in the encounter.

But the tables were about to turn.

Commodore Norrington allowed himself the slightest of triumphant smiles as he ordered all canvas spread. After so much failure, he had at last anticipated the convoluted logic that had led the pirate to this place. Finally, he had unraveled a strand in the knot that was Jack Sparrow.

* * * * *
TBC
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