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Allegiance - Chapter 12

by The Stowaway


Isla de Muerta, a few days later

Once through the secret passage, Will sailed the sloop - which they had named Dogfish - past the inlet that held the main entrance to the caves. The high spur of rock that bounded the inlet masked another, smaller anchorage on its far side. Too narrow and shallow for the Pearl, it was perfect for their present craft. It, too, boasted an opening into the treasure cave; one, moreover, that lay but a score of yards away as they dropped anchor. This would speed the work of loading the treasure with the sloop's one small boat.

Leaving two men on guard, the others went ashore and entered the cave through a narrow, twisting tunnel that debouched behind a rocky buttress, well hidden in the shadows. Every heart was lifted by the sight of the wealth piled in the cavern. There was, of course, far less of it than on the day when as a child Will had first seen this place, but it was still an impressive hoard - and now, it had only to be split twenty ways. The pirates, nothing if not pragmatic, found any grief they might feel for lost comrades to be washed away by the golden glow that rose from the cave.

"Gems, nuggets and minted coin," Will reminded them. "It must take up little room and be readily spent - we have no time to waste finding buyers for statuary or armour."

"Aye, Will," they said, scattering to gather what was wanted.

In a couple of hours they had filled a number of small chests with coin and two more with gold nuggets. A small sack was bulging with several dozen of the choicest pearls. They began to shift the chests to the Dogfish. This required a number of trips, as the small boat could carry only two chests at a time. While some returned to the sloop to help take the chests on board and others rowed back and forth, Will and three men finished shifting the last of their selections to the mouth of the tunnel. They had just loaded the final two chests into the boat when they heard noises emanating from the cavern. Voices!

Will sent the boat back to the Dogfish with instructions to load the chests and return as quickly as possible for him and the others. "Quietly, mind," he cautioned them. "Sound is magnified by the tunnel and you'll be heard else."  The rowers pulled away and Will turned to the three men with him. "Come on," he said. They crept back along the passage, the sounds from the cave growing with each step they took. Before they reached the buttress they could see the flickering of torchlight on the rock walls, and the sound of many men shouting and calling to each other.

They peered from their hiding place to see that the cavern was swarming with upwards of eighty pirates, rooting through the treasure - their treasure! - and yelling excitedly. Rage and astonishment held them motionless for a moment, but then they drew their swords. It was with difficulty that Will restrained them from rushing out - heedless of the ridiculous odds - to defend their hoard.

Will's consternation was, if anything greater than theirs, but still he kept his head. These must be Sparrow's men - he was sure of it. But how had they found their way to the Isla de Muerta? The sea had been empty when he had brought the Dogfish into the hidden passage, of this he was certain. And Barbossa had never, so far as he knew, written down the bearings to this place. Had one of the Black Pearl's crew been persuaded to lead the thieves here?

Just then a dark-haired man in a green coat ascended the little hill at the center of the cave and raised his arms for silence. Gradually the cacophony died down and the crowd stood staring up at him. "Well, gentlemen," he said, when silence had fallen at last, "are you satisfied?"

A hundred voices roared "YES" and the speaker laughed. He waved his arms and swayed forward with an odd grace.

"Here it is," he continued, "the fabled hoard of the Isla de Muerta - ours by right of conquest."

The crowd roared again, masking the snarled curses of the hidden watchers. Will realized that this must be Sparrow and he felt his rage growing, gnawing at his control. He wanted to rush out and strike him down, no matter the cost to himself. But the thought of his men steadied him. He must get them safe away. Sparrow would yet die at his hand, he swore - for his father and for the Pearl.

"The son of a bitch still has the compass!" Billings exclaimed.

"What did you say?" Will asked, signaling for them to lower their voices as the uproar in the cavern abated once more.

"The compass," Billings said, pointing toward the speaker. "See it at his hip?"

"What about it?"

"It's said that it's magic, that it points the way to the Aztec gold," Billings explained. "When Barbossa took the Pearl and marooned him, it was lost. We thought he'd tossed it overboard but somehow the bastard took it with him."

Will knew, of course, that Barbossa had taken the ship from Sparrow, but this was the first he'd ever heard of the compass. He glanced over at the sinister stone chest, which they had moved against the far wall of the cave all those years ago, when the curse had been removed. None had touched it since and yet it seemed that some shred of the ill-will of the Heathen Gods still pursued them, for the cursed gold had guided his enemy here to rob him once again. He swore.

Sparrow was speaking but Will ignored him. He looked at his men and shook his head. "We are too few," he whispered. "We can't fight them here. We need ships and men enough to be sure we will win. And then - we will take back what is ours."

His face was strained and set, the expression so grim that the men fidgeted under his gaze. Although cold and quiet, it put them in mind of the battle-rage that came over Will when he fought, and they shuddered. Silently they followed him down the tunnel and out to the waiting boat. Best not to cross Will Turner when he looked like that.

Once back on the Dogfish, they sailed round the island and back into the hidden passage without being seen by Sparrow's men. They set a course for Tortuga. There was work to do.
 

 

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