The Eight of Wands
Putting Plans into Action-Conclusions-Learning More
When the guards returned Will and Elizabeth to the brig, they put Will in
the cell with Jack, and Elizabeth with Norrington. Will felt as if he ought
to object but realized the futility of arguing with the guards, who, in any
event seemed to speak little or no English, and were surely following de la
Cruz's orders. Will felt guilty for displacing Elizabeth, but the thought of
sharing Jack's cell was reassuring. It was one thing to look across the brig
and see that Jack was well, but that was nothing compared to touching Jack
and feeling him warm and real beneath his hands. Besides, Will was relieved
to have a little distance from Norrington; he was beginning to find
Norrington's proximity somewhat. . .discomfiting.
Jack clasped Will's shoulder heartily, the previous day's ill-temper
seemingly forgotten. "It's good to see you. Good to see you both." His eagle
eye took in the cut on Will's face; quickly and wordlessly he scanned Will's
body for any other signs of injury. Finding none, he touched Will's face,
brushing his thumb under the wound. "Good to see you," he said again,
At the feel of Jack's rough fingers on his face, Will felt a thrill of
desire, the same rush of energy and need he experienced after battle. He
would have kissed Jack -- and more, pushed him against the hull, heedless of
his hurt leg, and brought them both off hard and fast -- had Norrington not
exhaled sharply. Will jerked away, feeling himself flush, and hastily began
to explain what had transpired on board the Princessa.
Jack's grin glinted golden and tempting. "So that's why you wanted to go
with her, to provide a distraction?"
"Oh, no," Will admitted, "I didn't have any idea what I was going to do when
I asked them to take me. I just couldn't let Elizabeth go alone."
"For all that she's a woman, she's not a child." Jack shot Norrington an odd
look. "She very nearly took Hawkins' ship single-handled -- it just needed
me and the boys for cleanup."
Will laughed. "You fool, it's not because she's a woman. . .I'd’ve done the
same for you!"
So much had happened that James was stunned to realize that it was barely
noon. The afternoon passed with agonizing slowness: Sparrow napped,
Elizabeth paced, and Will sat, staring intently, sometimes twitching his
feet or hands in a vaguely familiar way. After an hour of this, James
realized that Will was drilling himself on footwork and positions in his
head. No wonder he was so good if he practiced even when he didn't have a
sword in is hand!
For himself, James tried to find the place of perfect calm that always
preceded a battle. There was a moment when it was inevitable and no worrying
or figuring could change the outcome; a point when it was down to pure
action, and James could simply let himself rely on his instincts. They had
made their plans, and now it was only left to implement them.
Second-guessing themselves would be the height of foolishness.
Dusk fell swiftly, and soon the brig was fully dark. If anything, this part
of the wait was even more nerve wracking; it was coming, and soon now. Once
Tommy had gauged that the ship had quieted for the night, he was to alert
Jack and then they would release the men from the hold. In sheer numbers,
the Pearls outnumbered the prize crew; if they could arm themselves before
being detected, they could take the ship easily.
From the other cell came sounds that clearly indicated how Sparrow and Will
planned to spend the next few hours. James was steeling himself to ignore
them, when he heard, very faintly, the muffled sound of weeping. He felt as
if he ought to comfort Elizabeth, but feared shaming her by acknowledging
“Mrs. Turner. . .Elizabeth. Are you quite well?”
Her voice was choked. “It’s nothing. . .” She sniffed, and then laughed
ruefully. “It’s just the strain of waiting. I’m afraid I’ve never been very
Norrington chuckled. “I seem to recall that, yes.” He paused and added, “It
must have been a harrowing morning.”
Elizabeth made a noncommittal noise, and Norrington instinctively reached
out for her hand. She gripped his fingers tightly, and they sat quietly,
waiting for Tommy to appear.
It was nearly midnight when Tommy arrived, loaded down with four swords and
a brace of pistols slung across his neck. Will was twitchy and eager to
fight -- his earlier exertions with Jack had done nothing to take the edge
off his battle lust. His heart was pounding and when Jack pushed the door to
the cell open, Will bounded out like an arrow from a bow.
Before Jack could unlock the other cell, Norrington had twisted his key in
the lock, and released himself and Elizabeth. Tommy passed out the weapons
with a self-important air, clearly impressed with his own cleverness.
Somehow he'd found Will's own sword; it felt comfortable in Will's hand, and
he felt a surge of excitement. Looking up, he saw the same emotion mirrored
on all their faces. After days of waiting, any action was thrilling. Jack
grinned and touched his blade to Will's, and Elizabeth followed suit. After
a beat, Norrington did the same, and Jack whispered, "Freedom."
Tommy and Will went to release the Pearls from the hold while Elizabeth,
Jack, and Norrington crept silently to the quarterdeck where the middle
watch was enjoying a bottle of Jack's best rum. Elizabeth had to bite back a
laugh when Jack quietly harrumphed at this imposition.
The Spanish sailors were lax, inattentive and dozy from drink, and it was
short work to disarm them. One, sharper than the rest, thought to cry out,
but before he could do more than open his mouth, Norrington had laid him out
with his fist.
"I should throw him overboard for that," Jack commented matter-of-factly to
the other Spaniards, "But I'm a reasonable man, and I'd not punish you for
your captain's villainy. But consider yourselves warned -- any more tricks
like that and you'll be feeding the sharks."
This eloquent threat seemed to fall on deaf ears; Elizabeth doubted that any
of them spoke enough English to follow Jack's words. But fear of the pistols
that were trained on them served to keep their mouths shut long enough to
tie them up and gag them, and so all was well.
With lethal stealth, the Pearls swarmed over the ship, armed with whatever
weapons they could hastily assemble: knives from the galley, swords and
pistols from unoccupied corners of the ship, and even ballast from the hold.
Gibbs had removed his shirt and wrapped it around a heavy rock, which he
swung with a deadly accuracy.
There had been no time for Jack to instruct the crew, and they were in a
fierce and bloodthirsty spirit, with no inclination to offer quarter.
Henrick in particular was ruthless, slaughtering the Spanish sailors with
the same grim efficiency Elizabeth had seen him use when butchering wild
pigs. With each blow he repeated, “Dit is voor Hans, hoerenjong!!”
The fight was swift, and nearly over before the officers were roused. They
ran onto the deck, half-dressed and groggy, and were easily picked off.
Elizabeth dispatched one opponent, and looked up to see Will's sword
flashing in the lantern light as he fought two Spaniards. With no time to
reload his pistol, he was using it to parry his opponents’ blades, spinning
and twisting in and out of the shadows. When one of the Spaniards stepped
too close, Will clubbed him over the head with the pistol and then, taking
advantage of the other’s surprise, ran him through.
Elizabeth fought briefly with a petulant looking boy in naught but his
breeches, who carried a beautifully crafted sword with an array of gems in
the hilt. Fortunately, he was far too drunk to use it with any skill, and
his footwork was appallingly sloppy. Elizabeth had little desire to have the
boy’s blood on her hands: it was no work to defeat him, but it took care not
to kill him in the process. In the end, she got no thanks for her efforts --
when he realized that he'd been beaten by a woman, he spat in her face.
Furious, she raised her hand to hit him, but she was distracted by the sight
of Jack slipping on his bad leg and falling backwards onto the deck. There
was a Spaniard in front of him, a pistol in his hand. Elizabeth screamed and
leapt toward him, well aware that she was too far away to intervene. Then
Norrington slammed his body into the Spaniard's. They grappled together,
falling on top of Jack, and the pistol fired.
Their bodies lay tangled together on the decking, all covered in blood, and
Elizabeth's heart was in her throat. But Jack was already clambering to his
feet, and with Elizabeth's help Norrington too was able to stand. The
majority of the blood seemed to have come from the Spaniard, who'd taken
Norrington's sword in his throat, but a neat hole punctured Norrington's
left coat sleeve and his arm hung awkwardly at his side.
Jack looked put out, perhaps at his own clumsiness. "Thanks for that,
Commodore -- I thought I was done for. Gibbs'll see to your arm for you."
This was the last of the fighting; the remainder of the prize crew had been
driven into the hold, and the ship was reclaimed. The Princessas didn't
realize that anything was amiss until the Pearl's sails were loosed,
dark grey against the black sky. The Pearl was out of range before
the Princessa started firing, and her shot splashed harmlessly into
the water as her sleepy crew frantically made her ready to sail. In the
ensuing chase, only once did the Princessa come close to the Pearl,
and a lucky shot from the stern chasers shattered the Princessa's
foremast. Amidst the confusion, the Pearl flitted cleanly away.
Dawn found the Pearls drunk with victory and exhausted from a night of
fighting. Will, Elizabeth and Jack stumbled toward the great cabin, eager
for a few hours of sleep in Jack's comfortable bed, only to find their way
blocked by the Spanish officer who'd been given command of the Pearl.
With shaking hands, he pointed his pistol at them.
"You've only got one shot, man. No sense killing one of us, just to be
killed yourself. We've no interest in prisoners - I've a mind to set you
loose in one of the boats. De la Cruz is a bit delayed, but I imagine he'll
come across you in a day or two."
Terror flared in the Spaniard's face, and in a flash he'd turned the pistol
and shoved it in his mouth. Will reached for his arm, but too late, the
Spaniard had already pulled the trigger.
It was full daylight before they were able, at last, to sleep. Elizabeth
worried that they might do further injury to Jack’s leg by squeezing in
together. But he scoffed at this, and yanked them down into the bed with
him. They giggled and squirmed but for a moment before drifting off, and
Elizabeth couldn’t remember when she’d slept so deeply or so well.
When she awoke, Norrington, Jack and Will were muttering together over a
pile of charts, and the sun was sinking in the sky. Very shortly, Tommy
brought in a simple dinner. Nothing but salt cod and onion soup, for the
Spanish had looted their stores, but it was delicious after days of nothing
but hardtack biscuits (and the excellent Xeres de la Cruz had left behind
made the meal considerably more palatable).
Norrington was pale and wan -- he'd lost a good deal of blood, although
Gibbs didn't believe the arm was broken -- but he insisted he was well
enough to dine with them.
Jack was in high spirits, drinking deeply, and toasting “a bold action,
bravely fought,” but there was an odd constraint between him and Norrington,
and Jack couldn’t seem to resist provoking him at every turn. After some
obscure reference to goats, Norrington sputtered into his wine, nearly at
the end of his patience.
Elizabeth privately thought Jack’s behavior rather ungracious, considering
that Norrington had certainly saved Jack's life. Will seemed to think so as
well, for he cleared his throat and offered Norrington more wine, then said,
“I know you are no coward, but not many Navy men would risk their lives for
a pirate. . .We are once more in your debt, James.”
Jack’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head at this. He and Elizabeth shared a
long look – when had it become “James”?
Jack fell into a brown study, and the conversation faltered until Will asked
to examine the ornate blade that Elizabeth had taken from the boy. Will
enthusiastically described the techniques used to forge the weapon --
apparently, it was a particularly finely made sword, in addition to its
obvious material value -- and when Norrington admired it, Will insisted he
take it, saying "You’ve lost your sword, and it’s the least we can do under
Norrington seemed uncomfortable with this suggestion and refused, but Will
was adamant. With every offer, Jack glowered more, until finally Norrington
took it, obviously in hopes of putting an end to the discussion.
As the heat of the day dissipated and a cool breeze blew in through the
stern windows, the mood lightened. Jack pushed his chair back and propped
his feet on Elizabeth's knees, watching the stars appear. In the velvety
blackness, Elizabeth could see the thin crescent of the waxing moon,
surrounded by the dim outline of the shape it would take when full.
"The new moon in the old moon's arms," Will said, gesturing with his glass.
"My mother always said it was good luck."
Jack nodded. "Lucky for us anyway. While the moon's increasing, De la Cruz's
magic won't be as effective. But after the full moon, the balance of power
will be on his side."
Norrington sat up straighter, as if he'd just realized that de la Cruz was
still a threat. "He'll be preying on British ships. We need to return to
Port Royal - the Governor must be alerted of this threat immediately!"
"It's worse than that, mate. He's made off with my compass."
Elizabeth started. As one, she and Will asked, "Can he find the island with
Jack shook his head. "I dunno. If he knows how it works, he can sail around,
watch which way the needle points, and plot the coordinates on a map.
Eventually he could triangulate his way there. No way of knowing how long
it'd take him."
Norrington cursed as he realized what it would mean if de la Cruz were
successful. He stood decisively, exactly as if the ship were his to command.
Elizabeth had had quite enough of Norrington's highhanded ways. Impatiently,
she cut him off. "Jack, what should we do?"
"What we need is to shift the balance of power back to our side. And I think
I know just the person to do it."