The High Priestess
Mystery-Shadow-The Feminine Principle
By the time the Fortune was within hailing distance, it was dusk.
Sparrow and Gibbs rowed over with an invitation to dinner, and returned with
Anamaria, a pair of fat hens, and a hogshead full of rum; presumably
Anamaria knew her host well.
The woman herself was something of a surprise. Her name was a byword for
bitch among the Pearls, and James had expected a strapping virago. Instead
she was slight and youthful looking, albeit with a fierce demeanor and a
sharp tongue. Under different circumstances, James might even have called
her pretty, although the loose men's clothes she wore did nothing to enhance
her appearance. She made an interesting contrast to Elizabeth, whose boyish
attire only served to emphasize her curves. Will claimed that Elizabeth's
disguise was effective, but, to James' eye, Elizabeth was obviously a woman
dressed as a man, while Anamaria could easily have passed for the thing
She greeted James with a sharp nod of her chin -- it appeared that Sparrow
had briefed her on James' identity. This formality out of the way, she
mostly chose to ignore him.
While Johnny cooked the hens, they sat in the great cabin, drinking rum and
acquainting Anamaria with their recent experiences. Sparrow related most of
the story, with Will and Elizabeth jumping in occasionally to correct or
expand on his narrative. The lingering tension between the three of them
manifested itself as an excessive politeness. Elizabeth verged on ignoring
Will, and Will's coolness towards Sparrow and Elizabeth was painfully
obvious. Anamaria sipped her rum thoughtfully and watched the others through
James had no illusions that Anamaria hadn't guessed exactly how the
situation was. She was clearly sharp as a tack, and she knew the Pearls
well. Besides, the dark looks Elizabeth and Sparrow were exchanging with
Will weren't particularly subtle.
Sparrow's recitation ended just as Tommy brought in dinner. As he served the
chicken, Anamaria exclaimed, "This is a pretty pickle!" It was unclear from
her expression whether she meant the situation with de la Cruz, or the more
immediate unpleasantness that hovered over the table. "It's a damned shame
he got your compass, Jack."
"It's not my doing! The man stole it from me; I didn't give it to him for a
James noted with amusement that Sparrow seemed genuinely flustered by
"Still a shame -- a man like that, with that kind of power. . ." She shook
her head. "I've been hearing nasty rumors about Spanish privateers, but I
had no idea it was this bad."
"What we want to know is can you help? You know about this stuff, don't you,
"Me?" She shook her head vehemently. "Not much. I know a little bit of hedge
magic -- ways to stop a baby, potions for milk fever, that kind of thing."
She cut her eyes at Elizabeth, who was looking determinedly down at her
plate. "For something like this, you want a real sorceress, not someone who
plays at it." She paused, and almost sheepishly said, "I know someone who
could help you. . .a. . .friend."
Jack exhaled noisily. "And where might we find this 'friend?' We haven't got
forever, you know."
"She's in St. Pierre -- two days' sailing at the most."
After dinner, Gibbs volunteered to row Anamaria back to the Black Fortune.
James followed them out, in search of some fresh air. As the boat rowed
away, crude laughter drifted back towards the Pearl. Anamaria's voice
carried clearly over the water. "What'd I tell you, Josh? You should've
taken me up on that offer; I run a tight ship -- we don't have any of these
shenanigans on the Fortune!"
Elizabeth had been imagining that the sorceress lived in a ramshackle house,
perhaps on the edge of the jungle. But the little cottage was neat and trim,
and not too far from the high street. A pretty garden surrounded the house
and a lush cover of vines was growing up the bottom third of the stone
walls. In the twilight, the white stones gleamed and the vines disappeared,
giving the house the odd appearance of floating above the ground.
A dark-skinned maid answered the door, and Elizabeth wondered if Anamaria's
friend was a servant, or perhaps even a slave, in this home.
The maid seemed to recognize Anamaria and, unaffected by her mannish garb,
escorted them to an elegantly furnished parlor. In French, she said, "Madam
will be with you presently."
Anamaria lounged comfortably on the settee, indicating that Elizabeth should
join her. Will perched himself hesitantly on the edge of an armchair and
examined his boot heel, while Jack confidently plunked himself down in
another chair, leaving a smear of tar across the brocade cushion. James
sniffed at this, and chose to remain standing.
The ornate boulle clock on the mantelpiece ticked loudly as the minutes
passed, and Jack fidgeted with a china shepherdess, turning it over to look
at the mark. Anamaria hissed and gave him a sharp look, and he hastily
replaced it, mouthing "sorry" in an exaggerated way.
Finally the door opened, admitting a tiny woman, dressed in the height of
fashion. Her dark hair was elegantly coiffured and her café au lait
complexion was enhanced with the faintest traces of paint. "Anamaria!" she
cried, holding her arms outstretched.
They embraced and Anamaria turned and gestured vaguely. "Captain Jack
Sparrow, Commodore James Norrington, William and Elizabeth Turner. This is
my. . ." At a loss, she finished lamely, "Madame Solange Reynaud."
Dinner was an elegant repast of the sort that Will hadn't seen since he and
Elizabeth had left Port Royal. Polished silver and bone china gleamed in the
warm light of dozens of candles, and each course was richer than the last.
Madame Reynaud was a skilled hostess, putting them all at ease and
encouraging a gentle flow of small talk. Much to Will's amusement, she would
have none of Jack's outrageous flirtation, which generally worked so well
with women of every class. She merely sniffed at his excessive compliments
and turned a beatific smile on James. "You are out of place, Commodore! Have
you run away to join the pirates, or is this some cunning ruse?"
"Neither, Madame. I owe Captain Sparrow and his crew a debt of gratitude --
I was washed off my ship in a storm and marooned for some weeks, until they
Madame Reynaud patted James' arm familiarly. "How exciting! You must tell me
of all your adventures."
Jack coughed indignantly, and Will was forced to stifle his laughter in his
After dinner, Madame Reynaud passed the brandy and questioned them
thoroughly about the situation. Her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared as
James described the ritual he'd witnessed, and the hairs on the back of
Will's neck stood up -- for all that she looked like a painted doll, she was
clearly powerful and dangerous. He wouldn't want to get on her bad side.
"He did this thing with a little black knife, like so?" She held her hands
apart, to indicate the size.
"This knife -- I believe it is mine. I met this priest some time ago. He
called himself Don Pedro Reyes -- he was no son of the church then; he
claimed that he wanted to learn more about the old ways. At first, I was
taken in by his performance, but in time the mask slipped, and I saw him for
what he truly was. When he left, he took my knife with him. He did not like
what I had to teach him, but I fear he has found other teachers who will
give him what he wanted." She furrowed her brow delicately. "This kind of
magic is very powerful, but it is also very. . .volatile -- easily
disrupted, eh? There is something that can be done -- a kind of charm that
can protect your Black Pearl, and keep her safe from the Spaniard's
Jack leaned forward, his teeth bared in a parody of a smile. "And what'll it
"Just so. There's always a price, Capitaine." She raised an eyebrow
delicately. "My fee is in two parts. First, Anamaria must remain here with
Anamaria started to protest and Madame Reynaud shook her head. "An untrained
witch is a hazard to everyone around her. I will not help them unless you
agree to finish your training."
Anamaria jutted out her chin and crossed her arms, meeting Madame Reynaud's
steady gaze defiantly. The air was fraught with unspoken words.
"Six months, chérie. It is a small price, all things considered." Her
polite smile never wavered, even as the silence stretched out.
They all held their breath, watching Anamaria. Finally, she laughed and
threw up her hands. "You always manage to get your way, don't you? Fine, if
that's your fee, I'll stay."
"Bon. But there is another price." She turned here eyes to Jack.
"When you have defeated Reyes, you must take the knife away from him."
Elizabeth interjected, "And bring it back to you?"
"Non!" She shuddered expressively. "It is tainted now, and can never
be cleaned. You must destroy it -- shatter it into tiny pieces and fling
them into the ocean. Only then will the power be broken."
"Fair enough." Jack thrust his hand out toward Madame Reynaud. "Do we have
She shook it solemnly. "We do."
He stood briskly and wiped his hands on his breeches. "What do we do?"
"You, Capitaine, do nothing. This is woman's work." She stared out
the window thoughtfully. "There will be a full moon tomorrow night -- it
must be then. . .Anamaria, you will be our virgin."
Jack snorted ostentatiously.
Madame Reynaud rapped his leg with her fan. "In this instance, we merely
require a woman who has never bound herself to a man -- chastity isn't
"Good thing, too." Jack muttered under his breath.
Anamaria cut her eyes at him, but before she could speak, Madame Reynaud
continued, "I will be the crone, of course."
James made a show of polite disbelief. "But Madame, surely--"
Madame Reynaud smiled mysteriously. "Things are not always as they appear,
Commodore. I am older than I seem." She tapped her fan against her lips.
"That just leaves the mother. Tell me, Madame Turner, have you borne any
Beside him, James choked on his brandy. Will flushed, feeling more exposed
than he would have liked.
If she was aware of this byplay, Madame Reynaud ignored it. "Then it is just
a matter of making everything ready. The ritual itself must be done aboard
the ship. It is a fine thing that we have a day before the full moon -- it
will take time for me to make my preparations."
Madame Reynaud insisted that Elizabeth and Anamaria stay with her to assist
in her preparations, and Jack chose to visit the local tavern, in hopes of
recruiting more men for his crew. Will had no wish to spend the evening
drinking with Jack, and so he and James rowed back to the Pearl
together. James was silent and thoughtful as they rowed; it was only later,
after they'd returned to the Pearl, that he asked the question that
had clearly been on his mind. "The child -- it died?"
Conflicting loyalties and unresolved tensions warred in Will's chest.
Finally, he curtly answered, "No."
"Forgive me; it's none of my concern."
The darkness made it easier to speak. "Jack has friends in Nassau. We
fostered the baby with them."
"You gave up your child?"
"Elizabeth thought it best." Will thought, but did not say, that it had
never been his place to say how Elizabeth disposed of her son. She and Jack
had worked it out neatly between them, and Will was never consulted as to
Will rushed to correct James' misapprehension. "It's not like that! He's my
son -- there's no doubt about it. But can you imagine a baby on a pirate
"She could have--"
"That wasn't. . .It's not possible."
Suddenly furious, Will snapped, "You're right; it's none of your concern.
On the day of the ritual, Elizabeth quickly decided that Madame Reynaud made
Anamaria look tractable. The sorceress had a long list of preparations that
they must each make, and she would brook no disagreement. Elizabeth and
Anamaria were required to bathe in fresh water and to wear their hair long
and loose, with "neither tie nor pin to restrain it." They were to avoid
contact with the men, and Elizabeth was, in addition, required to drink
nothing fermented and to eat nothing but bread and fruit.
At Madame Reynaud's insistence, Jack had cleared away the lines, crates and
casks that ordinarily littered the Pearl's main deck. The boards had
been scrubbed clean, and every man had gone ashore, leaving the ship empty
except for the three women and Dinah (who was given special dispensation on
account of her sex, and because, as Madame Reynaud had explained, cats have
an affinity with the moon, and are useful assistants when moon magic is
Without her usual complement, the ship was eerily quiet; Elizabeth was
reminded that the Pearl had once been crewed by the damned. The
single lantern cast weird shadows on the deck and Dinah perched on the rail,
watching the proceedings with wide, shining eyes.
Madame Reynaud took her time setting out her supplies, lighting a little
brazier, and sprinkling some kind of white powder in a spiraling pattern on
the deck. She squinted at the design, pursed her lips and added another
tendril, then nodded and gestured at Elizabeth and Anamaria to join her in
the labyrinth she'd outlined on the deck.
With a vicious little knife, Madame Reynaud cut her palm until blood ran
freely. Solemnly she said, "Blood, freely given," then, spinning in place,
she shook her hand in each direction, sending droplets of blood flying.
Elizabeth tasted iron and salt and shuddered reflexively.
Anamaria shuffled on her feet nervously before pulling something over her
head. Hidden beneath her shirt had been a tiny wooden charm on a leather
thong. She took a deep breath and threw the necklace onto the brazier. "A
sacrifice, freely given." The fire flared up, and the charm glowed briefly
before crumbling to ash.
Elizabeth opened her locket, and took out fine curls that had been cut from
William's head. She threw them on the fire as well, repeating, "A sacrifice,
freely given." A foul odor rose up as the hairs shriveled away.
Madame Reynaud stirred the coals with a long wand until the wood began to
smolder, and then carefully stubbed out the flames on the side of the
brazier, leaving a charred tip at the end of the stick. She began to sing,
and as she sang, she tossed an aromatic black powder into the air. It coated
them all in a fine dust, sticking to their blood-flecked skin, and when it
fell into the fire, a thick cloud of smoke poured out of the brazier.
Elizabeth's head began to spin, as if she'd had too much to drink.
Madame Reynaud's voice was clear and melodic with a throbbing, rising
intensity. The words were meaningless to Elizabeth, in no language she
recognized, but the yearning, calling tune seemed strangely familiar. The
skin on the back of her neck prickled, and when Madame Reynaud began to
dance, the cadence of her heels on the deck echoed the beat of Elizabeth's
Anamaria watched intently as Madame Reynaud's hands moved in intricate
patterns through the air, and slowly her body began to sway, as if the
rhythm was contagious. With a start, Elizabeth realized that she too was
swaying, and that her feet were twitching in time to the song.
The moon was fat and round on the horizon, with a blood-red cast, and the
wind picked up, swirling the smoke around their faces. Madame Reynaud's
voice rose higher and higher. The normal shipboard noises seemed amplified,
and the wind in the sails was like the whisper of a woman's voice.
In a snaking procession, they wound their way from stern to bow and back,
Madame Reynaud using the charred stick to inscribe the deck with arcane
symbols and mysterious words. In the moonlight, the markings seemed
luminescent, standing out from the wood as if they'd been embossed.
Elizabeth was singing now, the foreign language rising effortlessly from her
throat as if she'd known the song always. On every downbeat, their bare feet
slapped the boards, making the Pearl creak and shake in counterpoint
to their chant.
When they returned to the waist, their hands were clasped tightly together,
although Elizabeth couldn't remember when she'd taken the other women's
hands. She was intensely aware of the heat of Anamaria's skin, and of the
way Madame Reynaud's nails bit into her palm. Her breasts tingled as if
filled with milk and her gut tightened with a shocking wave of lust.
Round and round they whirled, and a rush of power coursed through Elizabeth,
wracking her body. Their feet levitated off the deck as they spun; Elizabeth
was weightless, looking down on the ship from a great height, and the wind
was whipping through her hair. The moon was right overhead, and the glow
seemed to pour down onto the ship, bathing it in silver light. Together the
women gave a final keening cry, and there was a crack like thunder, and
Elizabeth knew no more.