Will shook his head. Just a trick of the light. He hoped his nightmares were not about to return.
The ship reached Marie's island in just two days. She'd attempted to flirt with Will, and he'd brushed her off as firmly, but politely, as possible. It was with a sense of relief that Will stood at the end of the gangplank ready to help Marie onto the island. He held out his hand to Marie as she crossed from Pearl to step onto the island. He gave a polite nod in response to her coquettish smile.
"If you please, Mr Turner, Captain Sparrow says it would be permissible for you to escort me ashore. I just want to get to the tavern where I can get a message to my fiancé and let him know I'm here."
Will's brows furrowed. Jack made no mention of taking her anywhere. He looked over at Pearl. He was surprised that there was no sign of Jack. He'd expected Jack to be with Marie. It was, however, almost sunset, and darkening rapidly.
"He was called by one of his crewmen. I can wait." The sound of longing and sadness in Marie's voice tugged at Will's heartstrings.
"No. I can take you. It doesn't seem that far. Mr Gibbs, Please tell Captain Sparrow I'm escorting Mademoiselle du Prey as he agreed."
Will was a little shocked that Marie hooked her arm around his. However, her delight was almost palpable, and if they moved swiftly, he could be back at Pearl quickly. Marie almost pulled him along. A disconcerting frisson tingled along his spine. Marie seemed to know exactly where to go, yet this was supposed to be her first visit. She dragged him down a dingy alley, and Will's hand hovered at his sword. This was hardly the place he'd expect her to want to be going.
They entered a tattered inn. The inn keeper glanced over, but said nothing, as Marie pulled Will toward the back of the room. Through a blue, smoky haze, Will saw a seated figure. As they approached the table, the man stood, his visage still obscured by the smoke.
"I have him, Master."
As Marie's words registered, Will reached for his sword, however, the man grasped his wrist in a tight hold, and Marie held fast to his other arm. Will opened his mouth to shout for assistance, but as he did, the stranger loomed forward. Will caught a glimpse of an aged face, dark, malevolent eyes, and a thick blue beard. The stranger was so close his mouth almost touched Will's.
He tried to resist as the man took a deep breath, and then Will's body drained of strength. He couldn't break free of the couple, his head spun, and his knees buckled. He sat down heavily, with Marie at his side.
"A pleasure to meet you, Will Turner. My name is Bluebeard, and you are my prisoner."
Will didn't possess strength enough to form a reply. His mind screamed he needed to run, to get away, but his body remained unresponsive. He watched through heavy-lidded eyes as Bluebeard smiled coldly at him. The man's face looked more youthful, the deep lines had vanished. Bluebeard pulled an envelope from his pocket, and moved to a nearby table.
The old man that sat there wore a patch over one eye, and his other looked glassy. Will wanted to catch his attention, but he couldn't even lift one of his hands.
"Captain Jack Sparrow will come soon, looking for a woman dressed in blue escorted by a man called William Turner. You'll know Sparrow by his dreadlocks, and love of pretty trinkets. Give him this letter. Tell him I said there's a silver coin in it for you. Come, Will, let's take you to my ship. We have a little journey to make."
Will screamed his denial silently, but couldn't resist as Bluebeard pulled him upright, and slung one of his leaden arms across his kidnapper's wide shoulders. He was walked out the back, where a dark coach waited. He looked up at the driver. For a moment he looked as Marie had done; tattered clothing and skeletal face, then he looked human again.
"To the ship. Sparrow will follow. He'll do what I want to get this pretty little trinket back."
Will gave a groan as he was shoved into the coach. Bluebeard sat close, grinning triumphantly. "All that's needed is the right bait, Pretty. Such a shame. I'd enjoy draining you, but someone else has plans for you." Bluebeard taunted Will, one of his hands stroking Will's cheek as he spoke.
Will shut his eyes. I'm sorry, Jack. Come for me. Please, come for me.
Jack groaned and gingerly felt the lump on the back of his skull. What happened? I came down to tell the woman we'd arrived and— She was nowhere in sight, and Jack scrambled quickly to his feet. Will was in danger. He knew it to the depths of his soul. He ran upstairs, and out onto the deck. Gibbs stared at him with shock.
"Belay that, Joshamee. Where's Will?" Jack overrode his friend's concern, worried only for his precious Treasure.
"He went with the woman like you ordered. But he's been gone awhile. I was on my way to find you."
"Get a few men together. Will's in trouble.
Within minutes, Jack and his men were ashore. Jack accosted the first man he saw. The man confirmed having seen a woman as Jack described, escorted by Will, heading into a nearby tavern. Jack and his party quickly headed in the direction he gave. Jack rushed inside, and looked around. There was no sight of Marie or Will.
"I'm Captain Jack Sparrow, and I'm looking for my First Mate, Mr William Turner who came in here as the escort of Marie du Prey. The woman was dressed in blue. Did any of ye see them?"
No one answered. Anger and fear warred within Jack. He was about to shout again, when a half-blind seaman came over to him.
"Jack Sparrow ye say. I didn't see them exactly, but I have a message for ye."
Jack snatched the envelope, ignoring his shaking hands as he ripped it open. He swallowed past a dry, tight throat as he read.
I have your pretty trinket Will Turner. The price is your compass. Sail to the next islet, and come ashore tomorrow at noon. No sooner. You'll see a hill. Climb it. I'll be at its peak. Come alone or he dies.
Jack clenched his hands into fits, the letter crushed in his fury.
"He said ye'd give me silver," the seaman muttered. "And I'll give ye a bit more than he thought."
Jack forced his attention back to the man, as the tone of his voice changed. "And what would that be?" he asked.
"I didn't see him. But he came close. Close enough for me to tell ye to beware him, Jack Sparrow. Me eyes may be of little use, but there's nothing wrong with these or this." The seaman touched his ears, and then his nose. "He had the smell of death upon him. Like the stink of something too long dead."
Jack swallowed again. "That is indeed worthy of silver,' he said, and pressed a couple of coins into the man's hand. "Let's get back to Pearl. Will isn't here, but I know where he's been taken. I'm coming, Will.
Will twisted his wrists, hoping to loosen the rope securing them behind his back. He looked around the captain's cabin he'd been left in. Apart from another large, red, leather chair, a table, and a bunk, the room was empty. There was nothing to indicate anyone used it, and nothing Will could see that would help him free himself. He grunted angrily with exertion, ignoring the chafing against his skin, and the warm wetness that tricked toward his hand.
The door opened, and Will stilled instantly. He glowered angrily as Bluebeard entered. The predatory gleam in Bluebeard's eyes, sent a frisson of cold fear skittering along Will's spine, but he refused to let it show. He'd faced preternatural creatures before, and bested them. This one would be no different.
"I'm glad to see you looking so well. You're quite magnificent." Bluebeard's voice was a low, erotic purr, and completely at odds with his ugly appearance. "But you're a means to an end. Sparrow has the compass that will lead to the Fountain of Youth, and I'll no longer have to rely on draining victims. I'll be free, untouchable, immortal."
"Jack's no fool, Bluebeard," Will said.
"Oh but he is. He's a fool for love. He'll do whatever I want to get you back. Very touching. Fortunately, I'm not so emotionally encumbered. My wives were useful only insofar as providing me with a ready victim. I need too many, too often to bother with marriage now."
Will forced himself not to shrink back into the chair as Bluebeard loomed close. He tried to clamp his mouth shut, but a large, preternaturally strong, hand gripped his jaw, forcing Will to open his mouth wide. He heard Bluebeard inhale deeply, and his strength sapped away. He's draining my energy, feeding off me like some kind of parasite.
As Bluebeard moved away, Will slumped, barely able to lift his head. Come for me, soon, Jack, please.
Jack jumped from the boat even before it reached the beach, powering through the waves onto the land.
"Ye have me orders, Mr Gibbs. See they're obeyed." Jack shouted without even turning around. His eyes were fixed on the hill that rose up from the jungle ahead. Somewhere on that hill is my beloved Will, and the one who calls himself Bluebeard will pay dearly if Will is harmed in any way.
As Jack ascended, the jungle thinned out. As he finally reached the top, the jungle faded away a few feet before the edge of a steep drop that Jack peered at, and then moved away from.
"I knew you'd come. This little trinket was the perfect bait. I hope you have the compass, Sparrow."
The soft, seductive voice surprised Jack, but there was no doubt the man who emerged from the jungle opposite Jack was Bluebeard. The attractive, erotic voice contrasted sharply with the man's almost grey face and thick, ugly blue beard. But of more importance to Jack was the sight of Will, bound and gagged, and held securely by a couple of Bluebeard's men.
Will's gaze sought Jack's, and it took all of Jack's self control not to jut rush to his beloved's side. Will's eyes held a mix of apology, love, and fear.
"Aye. I have it." Jack tore his gaze from Will and focused on his enemy. He pulled out his compass, held it aloft for Bluebeard to see, and then secured it in his waistband. He glared at Bluebeard, but the other man just laughed.
"I think the rock over there would be a good place on which to place it, Sparrow. I will come to you, and see if it's the real article."
Jack's gaze followed the direction of Bluebeard's pointing finger. There was a boulder a few feet from the cliff's edge. It kept Jack a good distance from Will, but there was also no place for any surprise attack. "Good enough," he said.
He set the compass down, and folded his arms, waiting for Bluebeard to come over. He gritted his teeth as Bluebeard ambled toward him. Jack kept his hand by his sword while Bluebeard looked closely at the compass.
"The genuine article. But then it would be. I knew you wouldn't risk Will Turner's life with a fake. Very touching." Bluebeard smirked at Jack as he looked up at him.
"Release Will, and take the compass," Jack said, his voice low and deadly.
"The compass, yes indeed. But as for Will, I'm afraid I owe him to another for the secrets the compass holds."
Jack grabbed at his sword, but even his steel would have been useless. Bluebeard's lower jaw dislocated to create an impossibly wide maw. Jack fought to stay upright as Bluebeard exhaled and the breath became a strong wind that threatened to knock Jack backwards. Despite his struggle, Jack's feet slipped, sliding him backwards, towards the cliff edge. He tried to regain his balance, and stop the slide, but there was nothing around him to grasp.
He glanced briefly at Will who fought to get free of his captors, and back to Bluebeard who picked up the compass.
"No!" Jack yelled out, but it was too late. His feet slipped the last few inches, he toppled over the cliff's edge, and plummeted down.
With a groan, Jack rolled over, and opened his eyes. He gave an undignified squawk as he looked at a sheer drop onto the rocks below, and rolled back before attempting to sit up as far from the edge of the outcrop on which he'd landed as possible.
Ignoring the various aches from his fall, Jack glanced anxiously around. His men would come looking for him, but every minute he remained trapped on the ledge, meant Bluebeard got farther away. Ye'll not be taking my precious Treasure. Not my beautiful Will, ye bastard.
Jack stood carefully and looked upward. There was some hand and footholds, but nothing that looked easy. He covered his face with his hands.
"I'm coming, Will. I promise. I'm coming. Hold on, luv." Even though he knew Will couldn't hear him, saying the words aloud made Jack feel better. He dropped his hands to see a thick vine slither down the cliff face.
Jack eyed the creeper warily.
"Hello? Who's up there? Hello!" He scowled at the lack of response, glowering up at the cliff's top. He prodded the vine. Nothing happened. He studied it for a minute. The creeper was thick, green, and looked capable of supporting a man's weight. He tugged experimentally. Keeping as close to the cliff as possible, he grasped it tightly in one hand, and lifted his feet from the ground. He swung there for a moment, and then began to ascend as quickly as possible.
Years of climbing ships' masts and rigging gave Jack an advantage. He climbed rapidly. Reaching the top, he flung himself over, and looked at the other end of the vine. He stared disbelievingly. The creeper only reached another foot or so from the edge, and lay unattached to anything. No one held it, and no one could have held it and run into the jungle without Jack getting at least a glimpse of them. He shivered as the air around him cooled rapidly.
He scrambled to his feet and looked around. Something was happening. He was cold, and a breeze taunted his dreadlocks, but nothing else moved. I don't feel anything evil. But this isn't natural.
He jumped at the sound of his name. But it had come from behind him. He turned slowly. The air shimmered as if affected by a heat haze, yet the breeze blowing around him was cold. Bitterly cold, and he shivered.
"Hurry. Danger. Death. Will. Hurry."
Jack heard the words clearly, although there seemed to be more than one voice. "I'll hurry all right." He backed away from the voices, then turned and ran into the jungle. The voices and cold air didn't follow. Jack bellowed for his crewmen. They were in the vicinity, and would be looking for him.
As his men came running, Jack headed to the beach, and Pearl, jumping over or dodging around flora he felt certain were trying to slow his progress. His men followed as fast as they could.
Once he and his men were back aboard Pearl, Jack steered her around to the other side of the island. There was no sign of Bluebeard's vessel. There were any number of small islands in the area, any of which may have been his destination.
"Where is he? Where is he?" Jack's voice grew louder as he repeated the question, and turned in a slow circle in front of Pearl's wheel. Some of the crewmen glanced over at him, but most knew well enough to ignore Jack and focus on their work. "Where. Is. He." Jack roared.
Chest heaving, Jack stood and waited. Why help me? Why rescue me if you won't help me find Will? A slight breeze tickled his left cheek, and Jack turned into it, trying to see something, anything. The breeze came again, stronger this time. "Please help me find him. He's the other half of my soul. The better part of me, and— and I love him." Jack whispered the confession, hoping it would help.
"Love. Help. Danger. Will. Death. Love. Hope." The words were a jumble, again spoken by multiple voices. Jack almost sagged when the air became chill and the breeze grew stronger. "Help. Save. Hope." Jack spun the wheel to catch the breeze, and laughed in triumph when the ship's sails billowed. Pearl surged forward, and Jack focused on ensuring the sails remained caught by the eerie cold breeze.
Jack sailed through the night, and most of the following day, until a shout from the crow's nest told him they were headed for land
Jack recognised the island, and knew its black history. Death in many forms had visited the place, and all attempts to live in the crumbling mansion or revitalise the sugar plantation had thus far failed. Most people left the island swiftly, refusing to speak of what had happened to them. I don't care if Bluebeard's opened the very gates of Hell. If necessary, I'll take on the Devil himself to rescue Will.
The cold air filling the ship's sails died away. It was already sunset before they were able to weigh anchor, and consider going ashore. Jack addressed his men. "Will is on this island. I don't know how many men Bluebeard has, but I have the best crew, and we are going ashore to bring Will home."
To Jack's relief, his men rumbled their support, and many immediately pulled out cutlasses and daggers, checking them for sharpness. Jack spearheaded the boats going ashore. He stood forward, sword in hand, staring ahead. I'm coming, Treasure. Wait for Jack, luv.
No one and nothing impeded their movement inland. The house came into view, silhouetted against the large, full moon that illuminated the night sky. Two upstairs windows were illuminated, and the building seemed to stare malevolently at Jack. He stared fearlessly back. Nothing was going to stop him going after Will. He edged forward, his men followed. They reached the crumbling gate posts, and Jack looked around carefully.
He neither saw nor heard anything amiss, and indicated for his men to follow him. As they stepped forward, a blood-chilling shriek rent the night air. The cold air rippled around Jack, and then surged past him. The skewed door flew from its hinges, and then Bluebeard's crewmen appeared. They were little more than animated corpses, and Jack swept his cutlass through the neck of the first to reach him. It immediately turned to dust.
"Decapitate the bastards, lads. Forward." Jack yelled his command even as he ran into the house. He glanced around. A small whirlwind floated ahead of him. Jack slashed at another zombie as he followed it. He was led through the house. He leapt over decaying furniture, and shoved aside doors that tried to hinder him. He emerged at the family chapel.
Anything that might once have had religious significance was broken, defaced or covered. The walls were daubed with black magic symbols, and black curtains covered the stained glass window at the far end of the chapel behind the altar.
The altar on which Will lay bare-chested and unmoving. With a cry of his beloved's name, Jack rushed forward. He stopped when Bluebeard emerged from behind a tattered screen, a long, black dagger in his hand.
Will reacted to his voice. He angled his head, moving so slowly that Jack's heart constricted with fear, to look at him. Will mouthed the words "I love you." But Jack was too far away to hear.
"Too late, Sparrow. The deal's already made. Sacrifice Turner by the stroke of midnight, and the secret of the Fountain of Youth is mine."
Bluebeard's boast made Jack's skin crawl. Then motion to the left of the altar caught his attention. A shadowy figure emerged. Although the man was insubstantial, Jack shook his head in disbelief. You're dead. You died twenty years ago.
"Vengeance, Jack. Well worth waiting for. When your precious lover dies, I'll be free of Hell. Free to take my place in this world once more."
The ghost taunted Jack, and Jack growled low and deep. "Not while I have breath in my body, Mordecai," Jack shouted.
He ran, but he wasn't going to be fast enough. Bluebeard's hand was already falling in a deadly arc to sink the dagger in Will's defenceless chest. The air grew chill around him, and voices cried out.
Love. Strength. Light. Free. Love.
The knife never met its mark. Instead the blade hit shimmering air that hovered just above Will, and flew from Bluebeard's hand to land at Jack's feet.