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In Chapter Two, it's Will's turn to risk it all.

Chapter Two: Death By Water

'There flowers no balm to sain him
From east of earth to west
That's lost for everlasting
The heart out of his breast.'
A.E. Houseman

The Flying Dutchman had been following the slave ship for the past two weeks, pulling from the water the sad detritus of the evil trade: the frightened, confused souls of African men, women, and in one awful case, a child, all dead of pestilence bred in the cramped filthy hold and their bodies tossed overboard for the sharks. Will Turner could offer them little comfort, even though all souls could understand him when he spoke, no matter what their native tongue. It was a small blessing wrapped within the curse of his eternal duty, he supposed. He could only shake his head as each new ghostly passenger came on board, offer his hand, and say, "You're free."

The latest batch in this trail of foul breadcrumbs had been the slaver's captain and three of his officers. They bore the marks of sword thrusts, and one man had taken a pistol ball between the eyes. The captain, a short man with the face of a weasel and a belly that overhung the waistband of his breeches, babbled of pirates and a black ship with black sails.

Framed by the gauntlet of his undead crew, Will stood tall and looked the man in the eye. "Do you fear death?"

The slaver captain nodded.

"Rough luck for you, then," he replied. "I'll not have your sort among my crew." For a moment, he contemplated putting the four in with the other dead souls so that the victims might take their rough justice. However, he cast the impulse aside. It was not his job to judge; he was only the ferryman.

He spat over the side. "Take them to the brig."

As the men were led away, he turned and stared out at the horizon. The sea provided an endlessly changing vista. Sometimes, like today, the water was as calm and flat as glass, reflecting the blue arch of the heavens, with barely a thin line to show where the sea became the sky. On the squally days, both water and sky turned grey, the deep swells reminding Will of the rolling hills at home in England, where he had lived with his mother until her death. His favorite times were the sunsets, when the descending sun tinged the pearly clouds with salmon pink and made the waves sparkle like amethyst.

One color the sea lacked, though, was the true, deep green of the land. Will pined for the sight of growing things, the feel of tender grass and the hot sand between his toes, the scent of the jacaranda flowers and the night-blooming jasmine on a humid summer evening. Some men loved the sea and were drawn to it. Will Turner accepted it merely as his unavoidable lot, and he grieved the loss of the land.

He gripped the fine hardwood railing of his ship with hands callused from ten years at the wheel. He even found himself missing the burning heat of his forge, the feel of his hammer in his grip, the bone and sinew-shocking blow of metal on metal. He wondered, not for the first time, if his hunger for solid ground had become a metaphor for Elizabeth and all the things he had lost in life. One by one the days of his ten-year sentence had passed like grains of sand through an hourglass, following an internal rhythm known only to him. Soon, now -- soon. And then one day, one perfect day to pay for all . . .

"Captain." The voice of his first mate came over his shoulder. "We have another boat coming in."

Will turned, smiling despite himself as he did whenever he saw his father. With each passing day, Bill Turner seemed to grow taller, losing the habitual stoop that the years on the bottom of the ocean and his subsequent servitude with Jones had given him. The lines on his face had smoothed out too. His father was healing slowly, and that knowledge gave Will what little joy he could take in his life.

"Another one? How many did they kill?"

Bootstrap shook his head. "This is a live one."

Sure enough. Shading his eyes with his hand, Will scanned the water and spied the lone dinghy approaching. The Dutchman hove to, waiting, and soon a familiar figure hoisted itself over the railing.

"Jack Sparrow," Will said. "I felt certain I'd be ferrying you for real, before ten years were out. And here you are -- cheated the devil yet again. What took you so long?"

"You're a hard man to find, Will Turner. Even setting the bait for you and the Dutchman, I worried I'd come too late."

"Where's your ship?"

"Hector and I have reached an understanding," Sparrow replied. "He gets the Pearl. I'm to have another ship."

"Is that so?" Will began. That did not sound like Jack Sparrow at all. The Jack Will knew would never willingly give up his Pearl. What could possibly have brought about that understanding? But before he could voice his question, he froze at the sight of the object beneath Jack's arm, feeling suddenly cold down into the soles of his boots. He gave a quick nod to his father. "Steady as she goes, Mr. Turner. Jack, come to my quarters." He had no wish to receive crushing news in front of his men.

In the captain's cabin, Will motioned Jack to a seat and took one himself, trying to keep a remnant of his dignity. If Sparrow was bringing him his heart back, it could mean only one thing. 'Oh, why, Elizabeth?' he wondered. 'Why now, when we were so close . . .?'

"She wants her freedom, doesn't she," he said aloud, his voice sounding like a death croak even to his own ears

"Last time I saw her she was looking mighty . . . lonely," Sparrow replied, with a bland expression that Will found maddening.

"You know, all I ever wanted was to be with her. To fall asleep beside her every night and to wake up every morning to her face. Just a simple life." Will shook his head. "I can't really blame her. She deserves a husband who can give her more than one day every ten years. So, who's the lucky man? You, Jack?"

He watched as Sparrow's face twisted into a wry smile. "Oh, don't be an ass, William. You're the lucky man. You always were."

"Then why are you here? And why have you brought . . . that with you?" As he spoke he did his best to fight down the grinding unease he felt in the presence of that chest. Knowing that his own heart beat inside it served only to remind him of the unnatural thing he had become, of everything he had lost.

"I want you to set a course for the other side," Jack said. "You and I have some business to be done over there."

Will shook his head. "I don't think so, Jack. It's less than a week until my ten years are up, and I've just enough time to make Shipwreck Island. No business is so important as to make me miss my one day on dry land. Not for you. Not for anyone."

Sparrow leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow. "Not even for her? There's dry land in the Land of the Dead, and you're going to need it, mate."

Will stared at him for a time without answering. Then, with lightning swiftness, he wound up and slammed his fist down onto the table, sending pens and navigational tools flying. "No!"

He felt gratified when Sparrow jumped. "You expect me to listen to you?" he continued, his voice deceptively quiet after his outburst. "Ten years. Ten long years I've waited to see my wife and you want me to give it up all for one of your mad schemes? Let me assure you, Jack, even without a heart, it is quite possible to feel loneliness, grief and despair. I've lived for this day, and you will not take it from me."

The smile faded from Sparrow's face. "You've said it yourself, Will. Elizabeth needs a husband. This is your only hope, mate."

"I have hope," Will said evenly. "Something Calypso said -- that if a woman were faithful, the curse might break."

"Calypso is a lying trollop," Jack shot back. "They don't say that the sea is a cruel mistress for nothing. True, you might be released from the Dutchman and she'll find some other poor fool to take your place, but tell me, Will, what are you going to do without . . .?" He tapped his chest in a knowing gesture.

"Jones!" Will spat. "May God damn him!"

"He's got you in a pretty pickle," Jack agreed. "Jones damned himself. But you need to trust me, Will. I've had almost ten years to puzzle this out, and this is what I propose . . ."

* * *

When Sparrow finished his speech, Will set his hands upon the table and nodded. He rose and headed topside.

"Mister Turner."

"Aye, Captain?"

"Set a westerly course. The exact bearing makes no difference."

"Not . . .?" Bootstrap rarely questioned his orders, but his face showed sincere confusion now. "Not to Shipwreck Island?"

Will shook his head and gave his father a reassuring smile. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cross over at sunset."

* * *

In all the years Will Turner had captained The Flying Dutchman, he had never set foot in the Land of the Dead. He had seen the ferried souls disembark, some with looks of joy on their faces as they spoke of a far green country, some trembling in fear at what they beheld. But he himself had never seen through the curtain of fog to learn what lay beyond. Not until today.

He stood upon the sand, still feeling the illusory pitch and roll of the ocean. After ten years at sea, it was the land that felt unstable beneath his feet.

"It's a bleak place." Jack stood at his right hand, his voice muffled by the mist and the crash of the surf.

"Bleak?" Will shook his head. A breeze from inland carried the scent of tropical flowers, and the mists parted to reveal the streets of Port Royal. It looked just like home. As he stood watching, he heard the sound of hoofbeats on the cobbles, and a carriage rolled past carrying Weatherby Swann. At his side sat a handsome woman who resembled a twenty years older version of Elizabeth. 'So that's what she will grow to be,' he thought with a smile. A man could do far worse.

In the opposite seat, facing backwards, sat James Norrington, and the couple gazed upon him with the sort of fond smiles usually reserved for a son. Even though Norrington stared out to sea, he paid the three men on the beach no mind. 'Of course,' Will told himself. 'In the Land of the Dead, we, the living, must seem as ghosts to them.'

Will sighed. So this was heaven.

"What do you see, Jack?" he asked.

"Sand. Nothing but empty, barren sand. Just like before."

Quickly, Will turned to Bootstrap, who had pulled the dinghy up out of the surf, and now stood with his hand nervously fingering the knife at his belt. "You, Father -- what do you see?"

"I see the white cliffs and the green hills. It's the harbor at Landsend, and your mother is smiling at me out of the mist, Will. Her hair is blowing in the breeze just like I remember from the last time she saw me off." Bootstrap gave him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, son; it's not my time yet, but I thank you for the vision just the same."

'Heaven is whatever you want it to be,' Will told himself, 'and so is hell.' He supposed it made sense. Aloud he said, "You're still in the locker, Jack. Don't believe your eyes."

"Perhaps it will change for me when today's business is done," Sparrow replied, giving a shake of his beads. "But no matter. I'm not going back there. Not ever."

He set the chest down on the shingle and drew the key from his pocket. "Are you ready, Will?"

Will nodded slowly. What man could ever be ready for such a thing? "As much as I ever will be."

He watched as Sparrow turned the key in the lock and opened the lid. He forced himself to breathe steadily when Jack reached inside and brought the red, pulsating object into view.

"All right. Let us make certain we have forgotten nothing. You are here, in the Land of the Dead, body and soul."

Again, Will nodded. The sight of his own beating heart in Jack's hand made him want to double over and vomit into the sand.

"Tell me, Will Turner, are you at peace?"

"At peace?" He barked out a bitter laugh. "Dead at twenty-two? Cursed to an eternity of ferrying the dead? I had my whole life ahead of me -- a life that I wanted. I want it still. No, Jack, I am most certainly not at peace."

"All right then. Everything seems to be in order." Jack drew his dagger and poised the tip of it against the heart.

At the last second, the moment of truth, Will felt a chill race through him. "Jack -- what if you're wrong about this? What if it doesn't work?"

Sparrow paused, and Will felt both the exquisite vulnerability of having his heart in another's hands and the realization that his friend would not strike without his consent. "In that case you will die for real, and after a few short decades, as balanced against the vastness of eternity, your beloved Elizabeth will die and join you. I really don't see what you have to lose here, mate."

What did he have to lose? Nothing. And everything. He looked into his father's eyes, seeing the doubt he felt himself, and it became clear. "Nothing ventured," he said. "Do it, Jack."

The dagger descended.

Will had died before, but, mercifully, he had forgotten the pain of it. He clutched his chest, clawing vainly at the cold-hot agony that transfixed him. His lungs heaved spasmodically, drawing in air that did him no good. He panicked. Was this such a good idea after all? Why had he let Sparrow talk him into it?

Too late for second thoughts. It was done.

As the strength ebbed from his limbs and blackness descended, Will felt a sudden overpowering compassion for Davy Jones, gasping out his doomed love at the last. With his remaining breath, he gave voice to his final thought, his final hope, as the sand rushed up at him and he knew no more, "Elizabeth . . ."

* * *

To be continued in Death By Water


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
I did already comment on this chapter in depth, elsewhere, I believe, but I have to say it again, here: I love the images in the land of the death. The different way everyone sees it, implying tat everyone gets their particular brand of heaven - or hell. In Jack's case, the way we saw him in AWO, in the locker.

I also like the way Will reacts to seeing Jack, and the chest. No question of trying to regain it from Jack, no question of pulling a Davvy Jones - he seems completely resigned to what must first appear as Elizabeth's judgment about his fate. It is very telling, and I think it also fits into Will's - or rather, this more matured Will's - character.

And the idea that the pirates bait the Flying Dutchman close by targeting that slaver ship is working well, too. I loved the question Will sets for the slaver captain - and the subsequent reply. Of course, Davvy Jones would have taken that one in...

All in all, I love this very much and I am glad you wrote it, and shared it here.
I'm also glad I know the ending, already, because I still do not care much or cliffhangers. ;)
May. 4th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
Aislynn, thank you so much for commenting -- and for your invaluable input elsewhere.

I loved the question Will sets for the slaver captain - and the subsequent reply. Of course, Davvy Jones would have taken that one in...

I don't think Will is entirely averse to taking in some villains. My son has given me the best plot bunny by saying (in an eerily good Will Turner impression): "Cutler Beckett, do you fear death?" Now I just have to come up with the story to go with it. ;)
May. 4th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
My son has given me the best plot bunny by saying (in an eerily good Will Turner impression): "Cutler Beckett, do you fear death?" Now I just have to come up with the story to go with it. ;)

Wow! But seriously: would there be enough left of him/ his body, to be taken in? The way I saw those scenes, the offer could only be given to those who had not already passed on, but were still on the verge of dying, which is why Norringtons answer by stabbing Davvy Jones - and dying afterwards - answered that question. But I admit, the plot bunny is quite chilling.

On the other side, Cutler Beckett is the sort to plot and ploy to get his hands on the chest and stab the heart, so he could finally rule the Seven Seas, if he had the chance, so it might be not the wises thing to make that offer...
May. 3rd, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
The use of slave ships is very effective – showing the awful parts of our past and tying it into Will’s experience. I find it odd that Norrington is in Will’s heaven. Can’t wait to see what happens next!
May. 4th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
I find it odd that Norrington is in Will’s heaven.

LOL. My beta reader did say that it would not be much of a heaven for poor Norrington, having to spend eternity with Weatherby Swann. Mostly, I wanted to show him at peace in the next world.

Why is he in Will's heaven? My take on that is everyone who has passed is over on the other side, but their circumstances change depending on who is looking at them. Norrington might be experiencing something entirely different than what Will sees from the beach.

Thank you for reading and commenting.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )